The Collaborative is working with six community development corporations this year to promote storeowner investment in building façade improvements through its new rStore program.
“Façade improvements like new awnings, lighting, security grills or windows may seem like small projects, but they can have a significant influence,” says Emily Stromberg, Community Design Collaborative Project Associate who is managing the rStore program.
rStore is a special type of service grant that provides design consultations targeted directly to storeowners on neighborhood commercial corridors. The Collaborative has partnered with the City of Philadelphia Commerce Department on rStore to help invigorate commercial districts and increase the accessibility of quality design.
A typical rStore service grant is given to a community development corporation and a commercial corridor manager who recruits 6-8 storeowners on their commercial corridor. All the storeowners receive a 2-hour one-on-one design consultation with a Collaborative volunteer in a single day. Afterwards, the designers provide the owners with sketches and often a cost estimate.
rStore consultations help position business owners to hire design professionals to further develop concepts and obtain permits for building. The design products can help business owners apply for funding to offset the costs of improvements and design services through programs like the City of Philadelphia’s Storefront Improvement Program. The designs also help community organizations advance plans for commercial corridor enhancement and neighborhood revitalization.
The rStore process can build cohesion and excitement among business owners and community organizations. “rStore demonstrates to business owners how façade improvements can positively affect their bottom line,” says Emily.
Emily has seen another benefit of working together on conceptual sketches. “Images help business owners look past what is currently there and visualize the potential.”
The current rStore participants are the Southwest Community Development Corporation, Nueva Esperanza, Mayfair Community Development Corporation, Frankford Community Development Corporation and South Philadelphia H.O.M.E.S, Inc.