Citizens Bank grant makes funds available for downtown Laconia facade improvements

LACONIA — A tripartite partnership of the Main Street Initiative, Belknap Economic Development Council (BEDC) and Citizens Bank Foundation yesterday announced a program that could lead to an investment of $70,000 to enhance the facades and signage of commercial properties within the downtown loop described by Beacon Street East and Beacon Street West.

In September, the Citizens Bank Foundation, which was established in 2012, launched its "Citizens' Growing Communities" initiative by awarding $70,000 in grants, including $35,000 to the Main Street Initiative for the Beacon Street Loop Facade Improvement Program. "A good bank gives back to the communities it serves and the to the people who live there," said Kathleen Reardon, senior vice-president and director of public affairs of Citizens Bank. "Strengthening the economic health and vitality of our local communities is a priority at Citizens," she continued. "We believe our grants will help enhance the character and overall well-being of these neighborhoods, support small businesses and spur additional investments in these communities."

Anticipating the next day's headline, John Moriarty, president of the Main Street Initiative, said "downtown takes another giant step forward." He said that "the facade improvement program will help local property and business owners grow their businesses and will contribute to the strength of downtown." He said that the program was another step toward "putting downtown Laconia on the map where it belongs" as "the kick-ass place to do business and have fun."

Property owners or commercial tenants inside the loop may apply for grants in amounts up to $5,000, which must be matched dollar-for-dollar. Carmen Lorentz, executive director of the BEDC, said that the Main Street Loan Program administered by the BEDC, which lends up to $10,000, may be able to assist applicants with the necessary matching funds. Applicants must provide proof that the property is insured and the taxes are current. Religious and political organizations are not eligible for funding. Applications must be submitted by 4 p.m. on Valentine's Day, Friday, February 14, 2014, awards will be announced In March and projects must be completed by July 31, 2014.

A committee of three, consisting of Lorentz, Shanna Saunders, city planning director and Christine Grenier, vice-preisdent of Citizens Bank, will score the applications according to five criteria, including its aesthetic and economic impacts, as well as a set of design guidelines accompanying the application package..

Application packages are available from the Main Street Initiative at or the Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce at 383 South Main Street.