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Before and After of an Army Navy Storefront
Posted December 4, 2019 | 3:06 PM

First Impressions Matter for Businesses, Too

University area retail plaza is awarded first Small Business Façade Program matching grant

In the 1980s, cellphones weighed two pounds, the average price of a new home was less than $100,000, and an eight-building retail strip center opened at the corner of Skipper Road and Bearss Avenue. Over the past 30 years, big changes occurred for mobile devices and homes, but the Skipper Square Shopping Center appeared to be stuck in a time warp.

At Skipper Square, in addition to providing jobs to 75 employees, the current businesses provide multiple grocery options, a restaurant, barber and salon services, retail goods, and a laundromat for nearby residents. Thanks in part to a Hillsborough County redevelopment incentive program, the nine tenant businesses in this plaza will see improvements to the exterior façade of their stores, including metal fascia panels, framing, soffit, framing, stonework, stucco, and electrical lighting. The much-needed improvements are expected to improve tenant retention, as well as attract new tenants to vacant spaces.

The center's property owner was recently awarded the first Small Business Façade Program matching grant from Hillsborough County. The reimbursement grant program is for owners and tenants of retail and other commercial service properties who want to rehabilitate, renovate, or improve the street-facing façades of their buildings. Improvements to the physical and aesthetic features of commercial spaces leads to improved occupancy, increases property values, and enhances the perception of the area as a place conducive to redevelopment investment. The grant is paid to the owner after completion of the redevelopment project.

The Small Business Façade Program is one of the County's Redevelopment Incentives for Pilot Project Areas, an initiative with the goal to put land back into productive use, renovate viable existing structures for re-use or alternate use, build community assets, and further revitalize unincorporated Hillsborough County. Over time, the leveraging of private and public funds with targeted investments, will increase economic activity, job creation, and property values, thereby creating an atmosphere of change and growth in the identified areas. The initiative is targeted to the 56th Street, North Airport, Palm River, and University/Innovation redevelopment areas.

Photo Caption A Small Business Façade Program matching grant is helping the Skipper Square Shopping Center update the 30 year old store façade (pictured inset) with a new design and lighting (pictured main) to attract new businesses and spur community investments.

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