Grants to boost businesses in downtown Chicopee

3/9/2017 | Chris Maza

Category: March

Reminder Publications photos by Chris Maza

The city of Chicopee unveiled the second part of a two-pronged approach to the revitalization of the downtown area with a new funding initiative for local businesses.

The Downtown Business Assistance Program will provide financial support to business located in the recently approved West End Housing Development Incentive Zone seeking to make improvements. With the two simultaneous initiatives, the city is making a significant investment to improve one of the city’s oldest and most densely populated areas of the city.

“Programs like this can create or be the added push for projects that can have a positive difference in our downtown. We can see the value that this can bring to businesses located in this area, which ultimately broadens the tax base and demonstrates the commitment the City is making to revitalizing downtown" Mayor Richard Kos said.

Michael Vedovelli, director of Community and Economic Development, said the Downtown Business Assistance Program “fits perfectly with our housing initiative.”

He explained, “For the West End Development, in order to create the housing development incentive program to attract market rate housing at the mills, we had to work with the state to create a zone. There was a lot of planning and a lot of research we had to do. Working with that, we already had a zone established for the housing side and we thought it would be very complimentary to have a business focus as well within that same zone, so we’re addressing both economic development and housing.”

The Downtown Business Assistance Program offers a total of $225,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds that can be used for a number of measures aimed at creating of jobs, assisting those with low and moderate income, an the removal of architectural barriers to improve business.

“We didn’t want to just call it a façade program because then we could just do façades. We didn’t want to do just removal of architectural barriers because then you can only address those issues. So we’re calling it a downtown business assistance program that could cover the main things that would go into improving a business,” Vedovelli explained.

“If you look around, some communities have a job creation program; some have a façade program. We’re kind of incorporating those under the same umbrella and each eligible project will fall into one of those specific areas.

“Removal of architectural barriers is an easy one. That’s to improve handicap accessibility, and remove anything that prohibits individuals or clienteles from utilizing the facility. Money can also be used if they’re making repairs to something that is hindering the business from growing. A new business coming into a building that needs rehab to make it functioning for that kind of business can also apply.”

Business owners can ask for between $10,000 and $150,000. Applications must include a plan and bids on the project that offer prevailing wages per federal labor and standards rules.

The program is open to both new and existing businesses. It is a rolling application process, but Vedovelli noted “obviously the sooner the better.”

Vedovelli added the city wished to make the application process as straight forward as possible.

“We want to take the onus off the individual,” he said. “We want to see what kind of project comes in, see if it’s eligible and then attach it to the proper program requirements and program stipulations and program regulations.”

The initiative is a grant program, provided the applicants’ projects ultimately meet their job creation requirements or the removal of architectural barriers and it meets the standards.

“If they don’t meet their threshold, it does have a reverter clause,” Vedovelli noted.

For more information on the Downtown Business Assistance Program, visit or contact Vedovelli at 594-1490.

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