NEW PORT RICHEY — Joe Nordon figured the timing was right to build an outdoor patio at his downtown Boulevard Beef & Ale restaurant.
One, he needed to add only 70 seats to meet new, less restrictive requirements for a liquor license in Pasco County. Two, the outdoor seating would attract smokers, whose business he lost after the indoor smoking ban went into effect in 2003. And three, the Railroad Square streetscaping project was happening right outside his door.
"I'm thinking, 'Boy, it sure would be nice for special events to have a patio out there,' " he said.
The city thought it'd be nice, too. Nordon this year got a $5,000 city grant to help with the work. In the end, the grant made up only a small amount of what he says was a roughly $50,000 investment, but Nordon said that having the grant in his back pocket meant he didn't have to cut corners.
"Every little bit helps in this economy," he said.
Nordon's grant is one of 1,245 awarded since the city began its popular residential and commercial incentive program in 2001. Part of the city's revitalization efforts, the grant program allows residents and business owners to share in the pot of redevelopment property tax money. Projects range from house painting to new business signs.
The $2 million worth of grants awarded since 2001 were part of nearly $13.7 million in improvements made to homes and businesses in the city. The rest of those dollars came from the homeowners and businesses themselves.
"Your money is going to work, and here are the visible effects," said redevelopment manager Caprena Latimore. "It's extremely popular, and the investment far outweighs what we put into it."
City resident Richard Howe got a $1,000 grant to help pay for the cost of treating and repainting his gutters to look brand new. The gutter work was one part of the roughly $15,000 project that he undertook last summer to improve the exterior of his two-story home on Astor Drive.
No complaints from Howe, a banker, on the process, which includes submitting a written proposal to the city.
"The process was very smooth," he said. "They were awesome. I can't say one negative thing."
General contractor Tom Gorecki will get a $5,000 facade grant to help defray the costs of a Cracker-style office building he is building on Madison Street. The lot was previously home to an abandoned house, which the city had demolished.
The office would have been built regardless of the grant, he said. But the $5,000 did help push him over on whether to make the facade Cracker-style.
"It probably made our decision," he said.