D.C. streetscape relief fund open for business

D.C. streetscape relief fund open for business

Aug 19, 2011, 6:00am EDT

D.C. business owners who can prove they have experienced financial hardship as a result of a District government streetscape project may be eligible for zero-interest loans under a new city program.

The rules establishing the Streetscape Loan Relief Fund took effect on an emergency basis July 29, but weren’t published until Aug. 12.

Qualifying businesses can apply for a loan, the terms of which may not exceed five years, through the Department of Small and Local Business Development, which will oversee the program — though the rules do give DSLBD the option of outsourcing the underwriting process to a bank or nonprofit. The agency has yet to release application forms.

The fund went through multiple iterations as city leaders balanced dwindling coffers with business owners’ demands for relief. It was conceived in 2010 as a $7 million streetscape survival grant program, proposed by Councilman Jim Graham, D-Ward 1, ahead of the major 18th Street NW reconstruction effort that will consume Adams Morgan for the next several years.

But that pot was quickly emptied in the budget crisis and then replaced with a far leaner $723,000 no-interest loan fund.

Loans will be available to any locally owned business in a streetscape corridor, though the businesses most likely to immediately benefit come from H Street NE, site of a recently completed, four-year overhaul.

“I’ll be applying quickly,” said Anwar Saleem, owner of 1005 H St. NE and the Hair Rage beauty salon at 1017 H St. NE. “I’m ready. We lost serious business.”

To be eligible for a loan, a business must be independently owned and operated, properly licensed and able to demonstrate financial hardship or debt “resulting from, or accumulated during, the streetscape construction or rehabilitation in the District.”

The funds may be used for working capital, inventory, repair, contract cash flow assistance or to pay taxes, overdue rent, overdue mortgages or other “substantiated” debt.

DSLBD will set the maximum funding amount, term limits, security or collateral requirements and any processing fees or costs.

“We all have to find a way to work this out,” said Saleem, also executive director of H Street Main Street. “The city has to be reasonable in working this thing out.”

This article appeared in the Washington Business Journal, August 19,2011


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