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Mechanicsburg’s About Face!

​About Face! offers retail and restaurant businesses, or properties with such commercial tenants, a grant of up to $2,500 for improvements to their building exterior, storefront or “stores outdoors.”  The owner matches the grant total dollar for dollar. Funding for the program originated through Mechanicsburg Borough and continues via the generous support of the Downtown Mechanicsburg Partnership.

The grant is unique in that it can be used for items beyond the storefront—for cafe tables and chairs or market umbrellas, for example, or for decorative purposes as opposed to solely repair work. To be eligible, the downtown address must be on Main St. between York and Walnut or on Market St. between Allen and Simpson Sts.

This grant is often used in conjunction with others programs offered in the county and by Mechanicsburg Borough as well as through our valued partners including local, state and federal government agencies and private lending institutions.

About Face! was developed by and is administered by the Redevelopment Authority. Contact the Authority’s Downtown Coordinator Rebecca Yearick to discuss the project and its impact on Downtown Mechanicsburg. Applicants are encouraged to involve the Redevelopment Authority early in their plans to open a business or remodel as funding is limited and commitments to worthy projects may be made well before your grant request is approved.

The Borough of Mechanicsburg, Downtown Mechanicsburg Partnership and the Cumberland County Housing and Redevelopment Authorities are committed to the revitalization of our downtown, the historic preservation and sustainability of the surrounding neighborhoods and a vibrant business community. With funding made possible by a $15,000 set-aside from the Borough of Mechanicsburg Commercial Rehabilitation Loan Program, About Face! provides grants of up to $2,500 for downtown retail business owners within a prescribed area to make improvements to their facades, storefronts, window treatments, display pieces, “stores outdoors” fixtures or furniture or other features visible from the public way designed to render the property more appealing, welcoming and attractive. Downtown Mechanicsburg Partnership, which receives financial support from the borough, continues funding for the program.

About Face! will be administered by the Authorities. A review panel to consider program applications will consist of five members and include representatives of the following:

  • Mechanicsburg Borough staff / Mechanicsburg Borough Council
  • Downtown Mechanicsburg Partnership / a retail business owner within the About Face! area
  • Mechanicsburg Chamber of Commerce, with preference for a retail business owner within the About Face! area
  • Mechanicsburg Historic Architectural Review Board (HARB)
  • Cumberland County Housing and Redevelopment Authorities / the downtown coordinator

The review panel may waive any guidelines contained herein based on good cause and on a case by case basis in order to advance the overall objectives of the program. The panel may, at its discretion, review previous decisions but provides no appeal process for applicants that are denied or discharged.

The Eligible Area

Eligible business properties are located on Main St. between York and Walnuts Sts., or on Market St. between Simpson and Allen Sts. The eligible area falls within Mechanicsburg’s Historic District.

Eligible Businesses

Eligible businesses include retail establishments and restaurants, or the like, that provide products and services directly to the consumer at the location.

Professional services, such as but not limited to the following, will not be considered part of the prospective retail business mix and are excluded from program consideration: legal services, accounting or tax services, real estate services, medical or dental services. Also, non-profit or charitable organizations other than those promoting the downtown or directly related to fulfilling program objectives are not eligible.

In line with our downtown revitalization objectives, the review panel may consider the following in determining the suitability of the applicant and their probability for success:

  • the length of time in business and at this location or other locations
  • whether the business maintains regular hours of operation and is open to the public
  • whether the business owns the property or is a tenant
  • whether the majority of their customers and sales come from foot traffic; if not, do they provide a bona fide retail space and storefront in addition to phone, web, mail order or other services

Eligible Improvements and Products

The items listed are eligible facade improvements subject to borough codes and ordinances. Although use of original materials is preferred, other materials may be deemed acceptable, depending on the project.

  • installation or improvement of gutter and downspout systems in conjunction with other facade improvements
  • facade washing or brick cleaning including paint removal
  • repainting of brick, masonry and wood including window frames and other facade features
  • repair, restoration, renovation and/or replacement of wood
  • repair, restoration, renovation, replacement or installation of appropriate handrails and porch balusters
  • repair, restoration, renovation, replacement or installation of appropriate decorative or ornamental millwork, dentil work or other architectural details
  • repair, restoration, renovation, replacement or installation of exterior or window/display lighting
  • repair, restoration, renovation and/or replacement of windows and doors
  • repair, restoration, renovation and/or replacement of hardware or hardware accessories such as for windows, doors or signs
  • repair, restoration, renovation and/or replacement of storefronts including signing
  • repair, replacement and repointing of brick and masonry, including retaining walls and sidewalks not in the public right-of-way but visible from a public way
  • restoration or repair of existing awnings, or installation of new fabric awnings
  • repair and installation of hanging window or flower boxes
  • restoration, replacement, or repair of existing or pre-existing fencing, excluding chain link and vinyl fencing
  • installation of fencing, railing or decorative metal works
  • removal of historically-inappropriate materials from the facade
  • preservation, restoration, repair or replacement of distinctive architectural ornamentation including cast and wrought ironwork and stained glass

In addition, the following products and services are examples of those eligible for purchase in order to render the storefronts and window displays more interesting, appealing, attractive and welcoming. They should provide an opportunity to better showcase the products and services available, and create interest in the business.

  • signage and signage hardware including decorative hardware
  • portable, free-standing, sidewalk signs
  • door mats and outdoor flooring treatments
  • wreaths, banners, flags, draping, sashes, linens, umbrellas and awnings
  • window treatments, lettering or graphics
  • windows and doors
  • planter gardens, planters, hanging baskets and other potted or planted landscaping
  • garden spaces or courtyards
  • display racks, hangers, shelving, tables or props
  • outdoor furniture
  • interior and exterior lighting and light fixtures
  • food service equipment
  • mannequins or display models
  • embellishments
  • seasonal decorations
  • professional design or merchandising/visual display services
  • other

Ineligible Applications

About Face! grant applications will not be approved in the following situations:

  • the project is already in progress or completed prior to notification of the grant approval
  • the project is undertaken by a developer, either for-profit or non-profit, for the purpose of resale
  • the project may damage the building facade, such as sandblasting
  • the project is inappropriate or incompatible with the program objectives and downtown revitalization
  • the project includes the installation or repair of concrete public sidewalks
  • the project addresses only interior work beyond the window display area*

* the Mechanicsburg Commercial Rehabilitation Program offers low-interest loans for improvements including interior work; contact the Cumberland County Housing and Redevelopment Authorities for additional information

Terms and Conditions

  • only projects visible from a public way that include retail space on at least the ground-floor level are eligible
  • business or property owners who are delinquent in the payment of real estate taxes and, or, trash/sewer, or have an unsatisfied municipal lien against the property, are ineligible
  • all necessary building or other permits and certificates of appropriateness must be obtained by the property owner or their contractor
  • project activities must be in compliance with any and all municipal regulations
  • the business owner is responsible for all project costs over and above the maximum grant amount
  • any cost changes to the project, either as a result of late discovery or a change in design (change orders) are the responsibility of the applicant
  • About Face! projects must commence within six months and be completed within ten months of funding approval; one, three-month, extension may be granted due to extenuating circumstances

Matching Fund Requirements

  • once approved, the retail business owner applicant can receive a grant of up to $2,500 for a project’s eligible expenses
  • the retail business owner applicant must match, dollar for dollar, any grant approved up to and including $2,500
  • while business owners are encouraged to put additional funds into the project, the About Face! grant maximum is $2,500

Application Procedure

Obtaining Approval

One of the objectives of About Face! is to streamline existing downtown improvement and development processes by having key stakeholders—like Mechanicsburg Borough, Downtown Mechanicsburg Partnership and the business community—work better together in support of revitalization efforts. With that, retailers within the eligibility area may receive a visit from a Mechanicsburg downtown team specially trained to assist you — by answering questions, providing additional information or walking you through the application process.

Before starting any work, applicants should contact downtown coordinator/Downtown Mechanicsburg Partnership liaison Rebecca Yearick at 866-683-5907, ext. 117, or at ryearick@cchra.com. As the About Face! project manager, she will conduct a brief telephone interview confirming the applicant’s contact information, address and general nature of the project. From that, if the project is deemed eligible for funding, she may conduct a site visit to the project location.

The business owner may be asked to complete an application and provide the following:

  • if the property owner, a tax receipt showing proof of real estate tax payment for the most recent year
  • if the property owner or billed directly by Mechanicsburg Borough, proof of payment of trash/sewer services
  • photographs of the existing storefront, and if applicable, a photograph of the window display area taken from the interior of the building (Yearick can also do this during the site visit)
  • a description of the work to be performed; any material specifications, illustrations, photographs, samples or “like” examples will assist the review panel in considering your application
  • a list describing the products to be purchased; illustrations, photographs, samples or “like” examples (such as from magazines or catalogs) will assist the review panel in considering your application
  • a brief project budget including rough estimates for the work to be performed and products to be purchased; the Authorities will provide a worksheet for the applicant to utilize in preparing the budget

Applications will be reviewed by the Authorities who will make recommendations to the review panel. The panel may request revisions to the work, services or products described in the application. The review panel will meet monthly or as needed to consider the applications; their decision is final.

Following Approval

When a project is approved for funding, the business owner signs an agreement with the Authorities establishing the terms and conditions of the grant. The business owner will provide the Authorities with a proposal for the work, copies of required building or other permits and certificates or any other required approvals which will be appended to the grant agreement.

The business owner proceeds by soliciting an estimate from a contractor or contractors to perform the services. The estimate will be reviewed by the Authorities; estimates will be deemed reasonable and approved if they are within 115-percent of what is considered the average cost based on the Authorities’ experience with like services. An exception may be made if the applicant agrees to pay the difference when an estimate over 115-percent is accepted. Once a project has received review panel approval, has completed reviews required due to its location in the Historic District and has received a certificate of appropriateness from the borough (if indeed required), the property owner may select a contractor or contractors.

Any “off the shelf” products (such as display tables, banners or planters) that do not require installation, are not custom-made or do not necessitate contractor services may be purchased without having to obtain competitive pricing. However, the business owner should make a sincere effort to maximize the project budget and assure they are not paying more for a product than necessary.

Applicants are cautioned to not begin their project, order or pay for any services or products related to the project that will be funded either from the grant or their matching funds, until the following requirements are met:

  • they have been notified in writing that the project has been approved by the review panel
  • the contractor estimate or estimates for any services required in the project are received and approved by the Authorities
  • all legal agreements between the business owner, any contractor and the Authorities have been fully executed

Once these requirements have been met, the Authorities will issue a notice to proceed, and the applicant can begin work.

Payments and Inspections

About Face! program guidelines include a process for securing the business owner’s matching funds, payments to any contractors performing work on the project and final inspection of the completed job.

  • depending on the type of work or services to be performed, the business owner may need to provide the matching funds to the Authorities prior to commencement of the project
  • the Authorities shall pay contractors directly for their work following the approval of their final inspection; business owners will not be reimbursed for payments which they have made directly to the contractor
  • all work is subject to inspection by the Authorities prior to any payments made by the About Face! program
  • items purchased with either About Face! grants or the matching funds are prohibited for resale
  • applications are processed on a first-come, first-served, basis
  • a business owner may receive one About Face! grant once every three years per location
  • no checks will be made payable to the business owner without the prior approval and written agreement of the review panel except for reimbursements already approved

Promoting the Downtown

One of the best ways to promote Mechanicsburg’s downtown revitalization initiatives is to tout its successes. Because of that, About Face! projects may be included, highlighted, in publicity or marketing materials related to or produced by the borough, Downtown Mechanicsburg Partnership, the Authorities or other downtown partners or programs.

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