Group offering rental assistance to new downtown Aurora businesses

Aurora Downtown is launching a program to help bring new businesses to the city’s central core. | Kalyn Belsha/Sun-Times Meida

Aurora Downtown is launching a program to help bring new businesses to the city’s center.

The group’s Business Attraction and Retention Committee is offering up to $10,000 in rental assistance to new start-ups and established businesses who want to move or open a second location in the city’s downtown.

The new rent subsidy program aims to encourage and support businesses to locate in downtown Aurora, said Kim Granholm, Aurora Downtown chairman. The program is intended to help a new business get established during its first year, which can be the most challenging, and expensive, time for companies, she said.

“(We hear) from a lot of property owners downtown that rent is cheap but start-ups don’t have enough money to spend on rent, personnel and other (operational) costs,” Granholm said. “This will help alleviate the pressure on new downtown businesses.”

First-year tenants new to downtown are eligible for the rental assistance program. The funds are for businesses seeking a ground-level location with a visible storefront, including restaurants, florists, art studios, hobby stores, music stores, clothing stores, grocery stores and cafes.

Applicant businesses are required to submit a business plan and other documentation to Aurora Downtown.

A subsidy of $10 per square-foot per year, or up to $10,000, whichever is less, will be offered to the successful program applicants. Aurora Downtown leaders will write a check directly to the landlord, with the tenant covering the remainder of rent, Granholm said.

This year, Aurora Downtown is committing $30,000 toward the program, and if successful, the group could double the funds in 2015.

So far, the group has heard from six interested business owners, according to John Nachtrieb, who chairs Aurora Downtown’s BAR Committee. Nachtrieb owns Barcode-Test, a barcode testing company, located at 54 W. Downer Place in the city’s downtown.

“We’re looking for first-floor walk-in retail that is family friendly,” he said.

Tattoo parlors and pornography shops will not be eligible for the first-year funding, Nachtrieb said.

Aurora Downtown officials aim to commit funds to three businesses new to downtown this year.

As part of the application process, interested business owners will be required to submit a business plan to the BAR Committee and meet with the manager or a business specialist at the Illinois Small Business Development Center at Waubonsee Community College.

Interested entrepreneurs should apply for program funding by Sept. 15. Nachtrieb said Aurora Downtown leaders plan to announce the successful applicants in October and to distribute funds by the end of the year.

For more information about the program, contact Bob Reuland at bobreuland@gmail.com.

Aurora Downtown is funded by a Special Service Area tax paid by downtown business and property owners.

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