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Top Re-Model: Local Shops Compete for Improved Storefront Prize

Citywide competition invites businesses and districts to nominate selves for prize.

When businesses consider a remodel, owners must grapple with the cost-benefit analysis to decide if it's worth it to front the expense for improvement. And while shops are rewarded through their businesses successes, it's hard to tell if the change was for the better.

Hoping to give recognition to businesses that launched storefront improvements, the Philadelphia Department of Commerce and the Community Design Collaborative announced a competition for business renovations.

"We wanted to highlight some of the great work that's being done throughout the city, highlight the best of transformations," said Jonathan Snyder,
program manager for the city's Commerce Department.

For the second time, businesses can compete against contemporaries throughout the city in a variety of categories. Areas featured in the "Citywide Storefront Challenge" include standard subjects, like best window display or historical preservation, to more unique groupings, like most inventive security gate or the project that has inspired neighbors to improve their properties.

"Business owners, customers, neighbors, designers, contractors, corridor managers, and property owners can nominate any storefront improvement project located in Philadelphia and completed since October 2010," CDC Program Manager Linda Dottor said in an email.

The Department of Commerce and CDC have partnered to promote revitalized storefronts, working off the idea that there's a "connection between strong design and successful neighborhood business development," Dottor said.

The contest serves as way to spotlight champion investments, but the CDC and city continually motivate businesses to do any improvements. Through grant programs, businesses within selected commercial corridors can receive matching funds for renovations, Snyder said.

In Northwest Philadelphia, Roxborough and Mt. Airy-Chestnut Hill businesses along Ridge Avenue and Germantown Avenue, respectively, can qualify for matching funds at a rate of $5,000 or $10,000, the latter for a corner or double-storefront business. 

What Snyder emphasized to any long-standing or new business is that the city and neighborhoods have resources available.

"A lot have community development corporations can help negotiate the challenges that exist in that area. And the Commerce Department, through the Office of Business Services, can help with grants, zoning question, (Licenses and Inspections). We're there to help them," Snyder said.

"There are more resources than people realize are available there."

The contest runs through Sept. 14. There's no fee to enter. People may view the attached application and email storefrontchallenge@phila.gov with any questions.

Winners will be recognized Oct. 10 from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Center for Architecture, 1218 Arch St.

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