Mrs. Robino’s Restaurant, Walter’s Steakhouse, Flowers by Yukie, Posh Salon and the Kurtz Collection are just a few of the Little-Italy-area businesses that have a fresh look these days thanks to a program leveraging both private and public funds.
These and twenty other local businesses have invested more than $260,000 in their buildings with security cameras and facade improvements, including new awnings, additional lighting, new doors and windows, signage, fresh coats of paint, and more.
The changes were made possible through a program facilitated by the community development organization Cornerstone West CDC that incentivizes investment in activities to support crime reduction, neighborhood revitalization, and economic development programs.
According to Cornerstone’s Sarah Lester, businesses received up to $1,800 in “mini-grants” to install cameras. For the façade improvements, Lester explained businesses were required to match up to $20,000 provided by the fund, known as the Neighborhood Building Blocks Fund. “So, Mrs. Robino’s improvements are approximately $30,000, and so they will put in $15,000 and we will put in $15,000.”
Owner Andrea Wakefield said they were “absolutely thrilled with the improvements” to their restaurant. “A more attractive entranceway, with new windows and doors throughout each of our buildings will complement the newly renovated flats and will provide a welcoming feeling to visitors of Union Street.”
Flowers By Yukie owner Yukie Yamamoto said that prior to installation of the security cameras, their beautiful storefront garden had repeatedly been vandalized. “Before the cameras, we lost so many plants – always vandalized. For a year-and-a-half we have not lost anything. Nothing is broken. It is really, really working.”
These economic development efforts come as one part of the larger West Side Grows Together initiative and a ten-year revitalization plan developed by local business owners, residents, and community stakeholders in 2011-2012.
The West Side plan was originally funded by the Wells Fargo Regional Foundation through a Planning Grant in 2010 and the bank’s five-year investment of $750,000 in 2012. Altogether, West Side says they have leveraged $116,000,000 into the both residential and business areas of the community.