Storefronts-For-All in Cambridge
Today a celebration and groundbreaking occurred with the first project to take advantage of increased grant funding for removal of architectural barriers at the Boston Bed Company on 625 Cambridge Street. This East Cambridge retailer hosted the event to showcase the services available to independent businesses and property owners. Mayor David P. Maher and City Manager Richard C. Rossi were on hand to explain the increased reimbursement available to small businesses for the purpose of making their location more accessible. Businesses can now receive an unprecedented 90% reimbursement, up to $20,000, in addition to the existing matching grant for façade improvements. The City believes this higher level of funding will spur more property owners and businesses to make enhancements that were previously financially out of reach.
Since 2003, the City of Cambridge has encouraged commercial property owners to improve the visual appearance and accessibility of retail storefronts with a matching grant that has spurred investment to create a pedestrian-friendly environment. The City of Cambridge recognizes that a greater effort is needed to remove architectural barriers so Cambridge retailers can serve the growing population whose enjoyment of street-level retail businesses is hindered by architectural barriers, such as steps, heavy doors, etc.
Additionally, research by City staff have noted that people with disabilities and those baby boomers who may also have difficulty with architectural barriers have a major economic impact in the U.S.:
- $175 billion in discretionary spending power;
- 75% of people with disabilities eat out at restaurants at least once a week;
- Baby boomers have more discretionary income than any other age group.
“Cambridge is dedicated to making local businesses successful in our neighborhoods and this program is just another demonstration of how our city provides opportunities for businesses here to prosper,” said Mayor David P. Maher. “We are very proud of the work that we are doing to improve our storefronts and to offer the support that many need to make their small businesses accessible and attractive.”
“The Storefronts-For-All Program is a prime example of the City’s commitment to creating public-private partnerships to assist local businesses,” said Richard C. Rossi, City Manager. “This program will expand not only the customer base for local businesses, but also shopping and dining out opportunities for persons with disabilities. This is a win-win program for Cambridge.”
“The storefront accessibility program accelerates our efforts to improve access to Cambridge businesses. As the baby boomer population gets older, the demand for accessible retail stores and service establishments will continue to increase, and this program allows us to address that demand,” said Michael Muehe, Executive Director of the Cambridge Commission for Persons with Disabilities.
"The bricked up front and small windows of this East Cambridge building felt like a fortress. From the time we signed the lease, we've talked about enlarging the windows to let people see into our showroom. This partnership with the city lets us open up the whole front of the store and reach out to the street and our neighbors and makes us more inviting. We are pleased that by offering improved access to the store we can better serve the needs of all our customers in Cambridge and the surrounding communities."
~ Andrew Rosenblatt, Chief of Sleep, Boston Bed Company
The Storefront Improvement Program provides technical and financial assistance to property owners or tenants seeking to renovate or restore commercial building exterior facades. The Program removes architectural barriers at the storefront entrance, improves the physical appearance of independent businesses and enhances the commercial districts of Cambridge. This program provides:
- 90% matching grant up to $20,000 for exterior improvements that comply with the American with Disabilities Act and the Massachusetts Architectural Access Board guidelines, including ramps, lifts, door hardware, automatic openers, accessible parking, and signage.
- 50% matching grant up to $15,000 for other façade improvements, including better windows, paneling, architectural details and restoration of historic features.
- 50% matching grant up to $2,500 for signage, lighting and awning improvements.
- An architectural consultant retained by the City is available to provide assistance to applicants through the conceptual design stage at no cost to the applicants.
Event Photo by Bob Coe.