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Retail Entrepreneurs Wanted

05/26/2016
Retail Entrepreneurs Wanted

The city of Allentown is still accepting applications for the Retail Mosaic program that offers access to downtown retail space, capital and professional support to prospective business owners.

The “Retail Mosaic” is a collaboration of Upside Allentown, Community Action Development Corporation of Allentown, 7th Street Main Street program, Hamilton District Main Street program, Rising Tide Community Loan Fund, Allentown Chamber of Commerce, the city of Allentown and the downtown Allentown business community.

“When we unveiled the “Retail Mosaic” in March, we had hoped to open some new retail locations within the Upside Allentown area by the end of the summer,” said city Business Development Liaison Dan Diaz. “As we have gotten into it, we have found that more time is needed to develop and polish business plans, match the needs of prospective entrepreneurs with our resources and help people identify other funding sources for matching requirements. Rather than stick to a rigid timetable, we will accept applications for the program on a rolling basis with a goal of ten new retail locations.”

Prospective retailers are eligible for up to $15,000 in forgivable loans and a network of professional support at discounted rates valued at approximately $5,000, including a certain number of free hours for each of the professional services. Qualified applicants must create at least two full time jobs that meet low-to-moderate income requirements. The funding comes from the city of Allentown’s federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) allocation.

“Things are changing fast in the downtown,” said city Business Development Manager Bernadette DeBias. “More and more offices are opening. People are choosing to live downtown. Disposable income is going up. The climate for starting a retail business is improving every day.”

Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski said, “The Retail Mosaic is a fantastic use of the city’s CDBG funds for the business owner to acquire new or used machinery and equipment directly related to the business process. The owner is required to create two full time equivalent jobs within three years which can be held by city residents who meet the low/moderate income guidelines. This program will increase job opportunities for city residents while reactivating underutilized properties.”

Interested persons may apply on-line at http://upsideallentown.com/retail-mosaic/. Applicants will be pre-screened based on a commitment to create jobs and a solid business plan. The final awards will be made to as many as ten prospects based on fit, need for services, credit worthiness and uniqueness to the downtown.

Led by the Hamilton District Main Street program, awardees will have access to the Retail Mosaic’s “incubator without walls.” A committee of competent and devoted professionals, the “ecosystem,” will provide pro-bono and reduced rate support in areas that are essential for business creation, launch and development.

The city has compiled an inventory of clustered retail space within the Upside Allentown footprint that includes the 700 to 1000 blocks of Hamilton, Linden and Walnut streets and Seventh, Eighth, Ninth and 10th streets. It includes areas commonly referred to as Jordan Heights, Old Fairgrounds, Seventh Street District, Old Allentown Historic District, Allentown Promise Neighborhood and the Hamilton District. The space is tenant ready within the parameters of 650-2000 square feet at market rate costs of $8.00 to $20.00 per square foot.

Digital Feast at 840 Hamilton Street has created the website and a 2:30 contained video to promote the “Retail Mosaic” program. The site contains the names, companies and services that make-up the “ecosystem” that is available to assist the entrepreneurs. Information will be shared with up to 700,000 people on Facebook and more than 6500 members on Upside Allentown’s distribution list.

Adams Outdoor Advertising and Sterner Outdoor Advertising have provided billboard space to help promote the program.

Interested persons with questions on the application process can email retailmosaic@allentownpa.gov.

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