NEW CASTLE Loans, grants target facade improvements

Businesses on East Washington Street are eligible for the low-interest loans.
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- City officials say there are now low-interest bank loans available to businesses that want to participate in the city's facade improvement grant program.
The city offers downtown building owners up to $20,000 in grants to improve the building exteriors. Anyone receiving a grant must match those funds when doing the work.
People's Bank of Western Pennsylvania has agreed to start a new low-interest loan program for businesses improving facades along East Washington Street, said Melanie Ansell, bank president.
That loan money can be used as the matching portion for the facade improvement grant program, said John DiMuccio, city business administrator.
The special fixed-rate loans will be at 6 percent for the first five years -- most business loans are at about 7.5 percent -- and floating interest rate loans will be about a half-percent below the prime rate, Ansell said.
These lower rates will be offered only to businesses that are already approved for the city facade program, she said.
Ansell said the bank will lend a business up to $50,000 under this program that can be used for exterior and interior work.
"We are doing this to supplement the downtown project," Ansell said.
Warner Bros. theme: A downtown revitalization project is under way in conjunction with a private development to create a Warner Bros.-themed mall. The Warner Brothers, who went on to become Hollywood movie moguls, opened their first theater on East Washington and Mill streets.
Developers are revamping that theater and adding a mix of shops and restaurants in nearby buildings for a planned tourist attraction.
City officials have agreed to make improvements to streets, sidewalks, lighting, curbs and parking downtown to bolster the private project and help other businesses.
Some of the work is under way, and city officials say they expect to close portions of East Washington Street sometime in the next few weeks for the improvements. The work is being done with a mix of state grants and city funds.
Other businesses: City officials also are encouraging other businesses to take advantage of the city's facade improvement program.
DiMuccio said they are considering a facade improvement grant for the Gabriel P. Cilli Realty building on Grove and Jefferson streets. That work will include adding new windows and doors and making the building accessible to people with physical disabilities, he said.
Other businesses eligible for the program will be sent letters notifying them about the People's Bank loan program, he added.

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