Tenleytown Main Street (TMS) announces a new façade program that will invest in exterior improvements to commercial buildings in the business district. The multi-year effort provides technical assistance and funding to Tenleytown businesses for upgrades and renovations. In the pilot program year, TMS selected two properties in the 4900 block of Wisconsin Avenue – one of the gateways to the Main Street – to receive façade upgrades. Currently in the final design phase, physical work at 4932 and 4936 Wisconsin Avenue is expected to be complete by October.
The Façade Improvement Program follows a design inspiration and corridor study TMS completed in 2017, working with commercial design firm Streetsense. Streetsense evaluated properties throughout the business district, and prepared recommendations on façade improvements that would create stronger visual appeal, improve business visibility, and better engage customers.
“Most customers take less than five seconds to decide whether they will enter a store or restaurant based on a cursory impression. Exterior upgrades can have a significant impact on attracting business,” said Leigh Catherine Miles, TMS Executive Director. “Tenleytown Main Street is excited to be able to take Streetsense’s design concepts and make them a reality for our local businesses.”
Among the businesses benefiting from the pilot program is the National Diving Center. Established 1973, NDC is Washington DC’s oldest operating scuba diving shop specializing in scuba diving training, gear sales, equipment servicing, and travel. TMS selected their building at 4932 Wisconsin Avenue based on the visual impact of the design recommended by Streetsense, as well as the relative simplicity of the needed improvements.
“This first building will serve as an inspiration and model for other Tenleytown businesses,” said Justin Pollock, co-chair of the TMS Design Committee. “So, we wanted to show how a few, discrete improvements could go an incredibly long way.”
The NDC building, as well as 4936 Wisconsin Ave that includes Young’s Nail Salon and an available retail bay, will benefit from: new signage and awnings; surface improvements, including repointing bricks, exterior paint, and repairing window frames and mullions; new or repaired gutters and downspouts; and/or window and door upgrades.
The Façade Improvement Program is made possible through a grant from the Department of Small and Local Business Development (DSLBD) under the DC Main Streets program. “We know how challenging it can be for small business and property owners to take on renovation projects,” said Miles. “We are grateful to be in a position to help them invest in their businesses with the support of DSLBD.”
The façade program provides for larger scale improvements than the highly successful TMS Storefront Improvement Project (SIP) small grants program. Funding remains available under that program to help businesses purchase or repair signs, awnings, or windows. TMS has provided funding for eight local businesses to date, ranging from $900 to $5,000 per business.
TMS offers a Design Inspiration Guidebook for local businesses seeking ideas and resources for improving their visual appeal. The guide provides examples of upgrades businesses can make to existing storefronts and general design guidance for improvements at every price point. Following completion of the pilot Façade Improvement Program projects, TMS will add a chapter with tips on navigating the process of completing a renovation project.
“Our active involvement in the project is being memorialized each step of the way,” says Pollock. “We will share our acquired knowledge about permits and feasibility so that other business owners and landlords can benefit from our experience.”
Businesses and property owners interested in learning more about the Façade Improvement Program or SIP small grants, should contact Leigh Catherine Miles at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-362-1815.