CLEVELAND — A small-business grant program has been designed to attract retailers and restaurants to fill empty storefronts in a pair of historic downtown Cleveland arcades.
The Charter One Foundation, part of the charitable arm of RBS Citizens Financial Group Inc., is working to repopulate the renamed 5th Street Arcades.
The contest coincides with a Cleveland developer's push to remake the vacancy-plagued Colonial and Euclid arcades, built respectively in 1898 and 1911, The Plain Dealer reported.
Retailers wanting to open or expand in the arcades in the area once known as the Colonial Marketplace can vie for grants of $1,500 to $20,000, with grant applications due by March 1.
But the winning retailers won't automatically receive grants. They will have to continue to a second round involving a 30-day public fundraising campaign.
The final winners and grant amounts will be announced in late April or early May.
Developer Dick Pace, who leased the retail space covering about 60,000 square feet last year and moved his Cumberland Development company into the complex, and the Downtown Cleveland Alliance invited young professionals and downtown residents to a September meeting to come up with suggestions for new tenants.
The property re-christened the 5th Street Arcades has picked up a few new tenants, including a chocolate shop and a holiday pop-up gallery, and Pace is offering reduced rent to startup companies.
"We've attracted a handful of startup tenants, and we've got the place starting to feel vibrant," Pace said.
With a few new stores and some deals in progress, Pace said he is negotiating with 10 tenants, including a small market that would sell fresh produce .New outdoor signs and more comfortable seating are expected to be added in two months.
Officials from Charter One and the Downtown Cleveland Alliance expect their grant contest to build on Pace's resident-driven, incubator approach.
A successful startup strategy might provide one solution for other strips of vacant retail space in the downtown area that has struggled to attract and retain stores.
Ken Marblestone, president of Charter One and RBS Citizens in Ohio, said in a statement that the collaboration will "accelerate retail development and bring needed retail services to the city."
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