City launches initiative to spruce up storefronts

A artist's rendering from the project's website showing some of the changes that can be made through the Refresh 50/50 program.

McALLEN — Businesses that fall within certain sections of McAllen will have an opportunity to apply for a grant to beautify their storefronts with art, landscaping, lighting and other repairs and improvements to enhance the building’s appearance.

Called a “storefront revitalization project” and run by the city’s retail and business development department, businesses that are located within the following corridors will be eligible to apply for the 50% match that could be worth up to $15,000: 10th Street between Houston Avenue and Nolana Avenue; Business 83 between McColl Road to 29th Street; 23rd Street between Idela Avenue to Pecan Boulevard; and South Ware Road between Idela Avenue and Pecan Boulevard.

The city has launched a website called refresh5050.com for those interested to apply. When applicants submit their application on the website, they’ll be asked various questions, including how much money they intend to spend on a revitalization project. The city could match up to half of that amount, which would be reimbursed upon the project’s completion, city officials said during a news conference at city hall Thursday announcing the new initiative.

Officials said the city on Nov. 7 will hold a seminar at 5:30 p.m. at the Fireman’s Park Pump House for business owners seeking more information or guidance. A total reimbursement could amount to up to $15,000.

“Anything that really makes their businesses more attractive and more feasible — we talked about paving a parking lot, for instance,” McAllen Mayor Jim Darling said. “Whatever they need to do, we want to make sure we participate and make sure we support all the small businesses in our city.”

As the city continues its northward growth, the corridors for this revitalization program are mostly within the center of the city.

“I think it’s important that we recognize as we grow north — retail grew north, businesses grew north — so some of our stores and businesses in the central part of the city needed some help,” Darling said, adding that “we wanted to make sure that they stayed vital and important and employed people.”

Assistant City Manager Michelle Rivera said the goal is to “stimulate and improve the physical and economic and cultural vitality of some of McAllen’s most visible areas.”

Darling noted the significance of La Plaza Mall attracting shoppers, “but we have thousands of local businesses and retail businesses, and restaurants, too,” he said.

Darling also compared the retail corridors in McAllen to a popular stretch in Houston.

“You go to Houston and Westheimer is, what, I don’t know, about 8 or 9 miles — nothing but retail,” Darling said of Westheimer Road, the popular retail and entertainment corridor in Houston. In McAllen, Darling said, there’s a strong business corridor on 10th Street from Wichita Avenue in South McAllen to Wisconsin Avenue in north McAllen. “It’s nothing but retail and stores and businesses. I don’t think there’s any city in Texas that can match that, even Westheimer in Houston.”