It’s well noted that there are many major projects that indicate Jamaica will be one of the next thriving Queens areas for development and business, but local advocacy groups don’t want to look past small merchants already doing business downtown.
For that reason, the Sutphin Boulevard Business Improvement District (BID) announced it will divide a $95,000 grant from the city’s Small Business Services department (SBS) among five businesses on the boulevard for projects that revitalize storefronts.
The Sutphin BID was one of 80 citywide organizations to apply for a grant from SBS, and only one of seven to win. It was also the only Queens group to receive funding.
By helping small businesses upgrade their facades, the BID hopes it will improve the look of the neighborhood and subsequently increase economic activity by attracting shoppers.
“Jamaica has been going through a metamorphosis for years and often people focus on the big, majestic projects, but if you look around here, the heart and soul of Jamaica is the mom-and-pop stores,” Councilman Rory Lancman said. “If we can help those small businesses improve their appearance, we can increase traffic to Jamaica, making it more of a destination for people from outside this area.”
The idea to apply for the grant from SBS began after a 2013 consumer survey, which pointed out the need to upgrade the look of businesses, according to Simone Price, executive director of the BID.
“Many of the businesses on Sutphin Boulevard are unappealing, lack consistency in character or quality of signage, awnings and window displays,” Price said. “This pilot program will demonstrate the significance of financial investment as it relates to the positive experience when visiting the area.”
The grant will cover 80 percent of construction costs for the five businesses for projects that include revitalizing signage, lighting, windows and other parts of storefronts.
The initiative will roll out in three phases. In phase one, which will run from January through March, the BID will collect applicants and select the businesses.
During phase two, which is expected to be from April through June, the businesses will sign contracts for their projects and designs will be selected. The BID will also begin marketing the initiative and construction will begin. The final phase will finish in December with the completion of the projects’ construction.
Elizabeth Pilarte, who owns Party Moments, a store dedicated to selling party supplies, plans to apply for part of the money to get improved lighting and upgrade her storefront.
“This will definitely bring more customers and make our business stay here and grow in Jamaica,” she said.