If some Balboa Village storefronts have recently started to look better than others, it’s no coincidence — they’ve had face-lifts.
A Newport Beach city initiative called the Balboa Village Commercial Façade Improvement Program has helped 10 commercial locations update their exterior appearances since its inception. Additionally, 12 more properties are works-in-progress and four have pending or incomplete applications.
The program, which has been available to Balboa Village business owners since June 2015, offers two tiers of improvements. Tier 1 grants may be up to $5,000 per location, and include minor improvements such as new signage and window treatments.
Tier 2 repairs are the for the structure itself and include new facades. For this tier, the city offers up to 50 percent of the project costs, or a maximum of $50,000.
Based on current applications in the pipeline, the city’s Associate Planner Benjamin Zdeba said approximately $35,000 remains available for this fiscal year.
To be eligible for the grant money, the business must be a nonresidential property and located in the area stretch between Adams St. and A St. on Balboa Peninsula. Applications are reviewed and approved by Community Development Director Brenda Wisneski and her staff.
Repairs or enhancements must match the standards set forth in the Balboa Village Design Guideline Update manual, which was published in 2014 and is available on the city’s website.
“The intent of these guidelines is to recognize that Balboa’s form and character has evolved over the past 90 years, has many positive attributes, and that improvements to existing buildings and new construction can enhance Village appearance by respecting Balboa’s eclectic mix of styles and character,” reads the introduction to the design guidelines.
Those interviewed about the improvement program had positive things to say.
Bita Mehrabani, owner of Green Element 365, a juice bar that offers a line of healthy drinks made from locally sourced fruits and vegetables on Balboa Ave., said she was happy with the new façade.
“It was nice and easy. No trouble at all,” she said of the process.
Next door to Green Element 365, Old Newport Realty sports new wood-sided doors and polished windows. Their work was also completed via the Façade Improvement Program.
White Sail Realty at the corner of Washington St. and Balboa Ave. had similar doors installed through the program. Pam White, who partners with her son Art in the real estate business said the new doors were a much-needed improvement, and the newly refaced windows no longer show years of scratches from passersby. The work was completed about a year ago, according to White.
Kelly Carlson of Balboa Water Sports said they used the program to have a new sign mounted on their blue-tiled roof. “It looks way better,” she remarked, and said she is also applying for improvement work to be done at the Balboa Beach & Bicycle Boutique around the corner on Washington St.
Associate Planner Zdeba said that there isn’t a deadline for grant applications, but “continuation of the program is subject to sufficient funding as appropriated by City Council.”
In the proposed 2017-2018 Capital Improvement Program, the section of the city’s budget used for public improvements, special projects, and several ongoing maintenance programs, $91,252 is requested to be re-budgeted from the Balboa Village Parking Management District for use in the facade improvement plan.
Whether that amount will be allocated toward the program will be decided on June 13, when city council holds a public hearing on the budget during their regular-scheduled meeting.
They must adopt a new budget and CIP no later than June 30. The first day of the new fiscal year is July 1.