Exciting news! There are some great changes to the 2019 City of Toronto BIA Facade Improvement Program! Get up to $15,000 for 50% of the cost of renovating your business facade & for adding AODA Approved accessibility features!
The Facade Improvement Program is a great opportunity for property owners and business owners located in the Church-Wellesley area, as it allows you to improve your property frontage at a fraction of the cost, and helps businesses put their best foot forward in attracting customers!
The Facade Improvement Program provides up to $15,000 for 50% of the total cost of storefront renovations & beautification. The base grant provides up to $12,500 for the purposes of completing storefront facade upgrades and beautification. For example, a business could get new signage, upgrade the windows and entranceway, install building-front lighting, and restore the heritage brickwork.
New this year, businesses can get an additional add-on to the grant of $2,500 for accessibility upgrades to help make your business entranceway meets AODA Standards. For example, the storefront entranceway could be widened, a permanent ramp could be added, and an automatic door opener could be installed. Please note that the City of Toronto has not officially released their application and program information for 2019, however now is the time to start determining which improvements you would like to do and to obtain quotes. We will update the appropriate links and information once it is available.
How to Apply
Funding for this program is given out on a first-come-first basis. Applicants must select 3+ facade improvements that they wish to implement by year-end, as well as any accessibility features that they wish to include in order to get the $2,500 accessibility top-up. Two quotes for each renovation must be provided to the city, which they will use to assess the value of the renovations. Grant funding will be assessed based off of the lowest of the two quotes.
Examples of Improvements that the Facade Improvement Program will Cover:
Brick cleaning treatments such as power washing
Re-pointing of brick masonry
Exterior painting (not including painting of brick) as part of other façade improvements
Replacement of doors or windows (on any level on the front facade of the building)
Replacement or repair of cornice, parapets and other architectural features
Installation or replacement of awnings or canopies
Installation and improvement of signage
Installation or upgrading of exterior lighting features
Professional redesign of storefront
Installation of wheelchair ramps and accessible entrances
Other improvements as agreed to by the Manager at the City BIA Office
Items Not Covered by the Facade Improvement Grant
Same-as replacement of existing features
All work considered must result in a physical improvement of the building facade, not just a simple replacement due to ware.
Applying for the Facade Improvement Program is Very Simple!
Below are some commonly asked questions that we regularly receive. Many of these and other questions are answered in the application package. Please contact program administrator – Michael Saunders for more specific & detailed answers to these questions. - Special thank-you to thedanny.com (Danforth Mosaic BIA) for creating these extremely helpful FAQs.
Q: Does the grant apply to facade renovations that have already been completed? A: No, facade renovations must be completed following the application’s approval by The City of Toronto Economic Development & Culture.
Q: Am I a member of the Midtown Yonge BIA (Business Improvement Area)? A: All commercial properties along Yonge St between the Kay Gardiner Beltline and Soudan St are members of the Midtown Yonge BIA, including the flanking retail sites along side-streets connected to Yonge St up to the alleyway. Check out the official BIA Map here.
Q: How is the funding determined? A: Provided that your application is complete and meets the required criteria, funding is given out on a first-come-first-serve basis, and is assessed based on the lowest of the two quotes that you provide, up to the grant maximum ($12,500 + $2,500 for an accessibility feature for 50% of the total project cost).
Q: Do you have to use the contractor who provided you with the lowest quote? A: No, you can use any contractor that you want to work with to ensure that the work is done properly and on time. We highly recommend contacting any contractors references prior to hiring them.
Q: Why is brick painting and stucco work not considered for funding as part of the Facade Improvement Program? A: Painting and stuccoing brick is considered to be damaging to the underlying material, and is therefore not an improvement of the commercial property.
Q: Why are window clings / decals or cafe patios not considered as a part of the Facade Improvement Program? A: This program seeks to help businesses and property owners implement long-term, permanent improvements to a building. Window clings/decals & the construction of a cafe patio are considered to be temporary under the grant, and therefore ineligible.
Q: I am having trouble finding a contractor to provide a quote for this work. Any Recommendations? A: The Ossington BIA cannot recommend any specific contractors as we cannot speak to their qualifications, professionalism or quality of workmanship. We highly recommend that you request references from each contractor prior to hiring them.
Alternatively, a great resource that you can use to find contractors are databases such as HomeStars or the Toronto Construction Association website. We also recommend walking around the area to look for nice facades. When you see one you like, ask the business owner who did the work – most of the time they will happily provide you with the contract and other valuable information.
Q: How long does it take for an application to get approved? A: Provided that the submitted application package is complete, it takes about five weeks (and often less) to receive comments from various city divisions on your proposal. The City will send you a letter confirming approval with conditions or non-approval. If it is an approval letter, you must sign and return a copy of the letter to the city. After signing the letter, your contractors can commence work on the approved façade improvements.
Q: How long do I have to complete the work once the application is approved? A: Typically you have until about the end of October to complete the facade improvement work (see agreement from the city for details). In some cases, the deadline can be extended slightly on a per-request basis.
Q: Do I have to get permits to do the work once the grant is approved? A: Yes, the necessary permits are still required for all construction once the facade grant has been approved.
Q: Do I need to submit professional drawings in the application forms? A: The drawings in the application do not have to be produced by a professional, but they must be clear and legible in order to adequately show what facade work will be completed through the program. One simple trick is to print a photo of the building out and draw the proposed building façade improvements outlined with a marker on to the photo.
Q: Is my property considered a heritage property? A: To be sure, you can use this City of Toronto Heritage Registry search tool. This important to determine prior to starting any work as major fine, penalties and costs could be incurred if work is done to a heritage property without permission or authorization.
Q: When is the deadline? A: The deadline has not officially been announced for 2019, but will most likely be in early to mid May, however, the funding is given out on a first-come-first-serve basis, so funding is often gone prior to the deadline. We recommend that you apply well in advance in order to ensure that you will receive funding from this program.
Q: Is this program intended for commercial landlords or business tenants? A: This program is intended for both commercial landlords and tenants. The best facade renovations tend to happen when the landlord and tenant work together to improve the condition of the building, making it both more visually attractive and functional. Ultimately all renovations require written the permission of the landlord.
Q: Does the program cover the cost of replacements & clean up? A: The façade improvement grant program is not a maintenance program to fix broken windows or signs, remove or clean-up a pigeon problem, replace pavers etc.. The intent of the program is to change the look of the front of the building for commercial properties.
Q: I own multiple commercial properties, can I apply for the Facade Improvement Program for both? A: You may make multiple applications for multiple commercial properties that you own, provided that those properties are not located directly beside each other. In the case that the commercial properties are located directly beside each other, they are considered a single property under provincial law and would only qualify for a single application, unless the properties have been severed by obtaining a part lot control exemption.
Q: I only have 1 (one) improvement that I want to make, do I qualify for this grant? A: No. The grant is intended to help business owners do significant renovations to their storefront, applicants must complete at least 3 (three) or more facade renovations in order to qualify to get the grant.
Q: Who provides this program? A: This program is offered to small businesses located within established Business Improvement Areas (BIA’s) by The City of Toronto.