From Pittsburgh to Paris: Partnership's grants hopes to revitalize Downtown
Joe Cardamone, owner of Cardamones Hair Salon, shows off his shop, one of several buildings that participated in the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnerships Paris to Pittsburgh Facade Grant Program, on Forbes Avenue in Downtown Pittsburgh.
The exterior of the Sonoma Grill, one of several buildings that participated in the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership's Paris to Pittsburgh Facade grant program.
This is the exterior of Sinful Sweets, one of several Downtown businesses that participated in the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership's Paris to Pittsburgh Facade grant program.
This is the exterior of Sinful Sweets, left, and Nicky's Thai Kitchen, two of several buildings that participated in the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership's Paris to Pittsburgh Facade grant program.
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It was a new look for Cardamone's Hair Salon.
Before, the 35-year-old salon was a small corner store at Forbes Avenue and Wood Street, Downtown. After a 2011 renovation, the store stretched into the space once occupied by a jewelry repair store, with a uniform facade extending down the block and around the corner and featuring large windows along the sidewalk.
"It brightened up the whole corner," said Joe Cardamone, the salon's owner. He was able to complete the $28,450 facade project in part due to a $14,225 grant from the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership's Paris to Pittsburgh Facade Grant Program.
"The renovation was probably done more professionally because of the help from them," he said.
The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership would like to see more Downtown properties and businesses undergo makeovers similar to the one at Cardamone's, and on Monday, the organization announced it had received a grant to help.
A $350,000 grant from the Colcom Foundation will fund a program that provides a 50 percent matching grant of up to $30,000 for exterior facade renovations, the Partnership announced.
It's funding that will help continue a program that started in 2008 to help Pittsburgh feel a little more like Paris, with activity extending from the storefronts to the sidewalks to draw people into Downtown and its businesses.
The Pittsburgh to Paris program was initially funded with a $1 million grant, also from the Colcom Foundation, a Pittsburgh foundation that has supported several Downtown initiatives.
In the first few years of the program, the grants acted as incentives for Downtown property owners to spruce up the exterior of their buildings, such as by adding awnings, outdoor tables and chairs, lighting and landscaping.
"It just adds ... a sense of safety and life," said Geof Comings, economic development manager for the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership.
The program helped to usher in better-looking outdoor spaces Downtown, particularly in places such as Market Square, and led to more restaurants setting up outdoor areas for seating throughout the Golden Triangle, he said.
"It really has been successful," he said.
Helping restaurants transform into places that spill out onto the sidewalk with chairs and tables has also helped with another of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership's central goals: "changing that nine-to-five image" of Downtown, Mr. Comings said.
The program added a grant component for full facade renovations in 2010 after receiving numerous requests from property owners asking if they could use the funding to improve their building's exteriors, Mr. Comings said.
In the five years since the Pittsburgh to Paris program began, more than 50 projects have been approved and 43 projects have been completed. The program contributed $749,852 of the $2,057,580 total spent on projects since the beginning of the program.
Completed projects include building facades for The Headgear on Forbes, Tavern 245 on Fourth Avenue and NOLA in Market Square.
Mr. Comings said the latest $350,000 grant will allow more businesses to improve their street look.
"There's still plenty of buildings Downtown that can really use the assistance," Mr. Comings said.
As for Cardamone's, the hair salon currently sits near ongoing construction for PNC Financial Service's new skyscraper, which is being built along Wood Street between Forbes and Fifth avenues. Two years ago, before that construction started and when his store's facade renovation was completed, Mr. Cardamone said that people told him how nice it was to "see something new in the city."
"When you are in business, you need to have some attraction," he said.
Grant applications for the Paris to Pittsburgh program can be accessed through the Partnership's website: http://www.downtownpittsburgh.com/doing-business/development-incentives/paris-to-pittsburgh
Kaitlynn Riely story
First Published January 9, 2013 3:54 pm