San Benito proposes downtown grant program

SAN BENITO — The city might be putting its money behind its downtown.

Today, city commissioners are expected to consider funding grants to help improve downtown shops while helping to fill empty storefronts.

“We’re looking forward to implementing these programs as a vital part of our downtown revitalization program,” said Bernard Rodriguez, San Benito planning director.

The program would offer grants of up to $10,000 to downtown property owners who use the money to improve their shop’s facades.

“It is our intent to use these programs in an effort to entice property owners to improve their facades,” said Rodriguez, who also serves as the city’s downtown coordinator.

The city’s Economic Development Corporation would earmark $50,000 to fund the grants that would require participating property owners match the grants’ amounts, Rodriguez said.

As part of another proposed program, the city would offer grants to help start-up businesses pay rent on downtown shops.

“We are open for business and we’re inviting potential entrepreneurs to locate in our downtown area,” Rodriguez said. “We’re offering this rent subsidy program to help them offset start-up costs.”

The program would offer grants of up to $5,000 or the equivalent of six months’ rent, whichever is less, Rodriguez said.

To qualify for the grants, he said, the city would require participants to enter into minimum two-year leases while working with the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley to develop business plans.

“We’re not just handing out money,” Rodriguez said. “We’re investing in this business. We’re going to do everything we can to help them succeed.”