Bath’s Façade Improvement Grant Program will pay for half of a project, up to $10,000, to repair or upgrade something on a building’s exterior in downtown Bath. Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record

BATH — Bath is offering the second round of a grant aimed at helping downtown property owners spruce up their building during a pandemic that has tightened the purse strings of many local businesses.

The city will foot half the bill, up to $10,000, for exterior improvements through its Façade Improvement Grant Program. The deadline for downtown property owners to apply for the program is Dec. 31.

Marc Meyers, assistant Bath city manager, said the city has $100,000 in funding available, which can cover 10 or more projects depending on the size of the grants property owners are requesting. Only two property owners had applied as of last Thursday, but Meyers said another eight to 10 potential applicants were in talks with the city.

“We created this façade grant initiative to help invest in our downtown,” Meyers said. “We’re looking to support anything that draws attention to and maintains the vitality of our downtown.”

The grant can be used for any work on a building’s exterior, such as repainting, replacing a sign or installing new windows or doors.

Once awarded, property owners have up to three years to start their project, Meyers said, giving owners some flexibility in the midst of a global pandemic that has financially strained many shops and restaurants.

“It can be particularly challenging to focus on these exterior improvements now,” said Meyers. “We’re fortunate as a city to be able to offer help to businesses in making those upgrades and improvements.”

The owners of Lisa-Marie’s Made in Maine, who own their building on Front Street, received the grant last year and used it to replace ground-level windows and the front door. The project cost about $2,800, which the city matched, said Andrew Stewart, co-owner.

“Our storefront windows had been leaking for years and we wanted to make them more energy efficient,” said Marie Stewart Harmon, Stewart’s daughter and manager of the store’s Portland location.

Although they don’t regret replacing the windows and front door, both Stewart and Stewart Harmon agreed they wouldn’t have spent the money on the project if they knew the COVID-19 pandemic was just around the corner.

Though the store has remained open, Stewart Harmon said business has slowed and “certainly hasn’t been ideal, but we’re surviving as best we can.”

Despite this, Stewart said he applied for this second round of the grant program. If they’re awarded the grant again, he said he plans to have the building’s second-floor windows replaced.

“When we bought the building from Sagadahock Real Estate Association two years ago we knew there were things we wanted to improve,” said Stewart. “We’ve come this far, we’re just going to swallow hard and hope we make it through.”

John Morse IV, whose family owns Sagadahock Real Estate Association, said the city’s façade grant is a good opportunity for property owners to make repairs or upgrades at a lower cost when may money may be tight.

“The façade grant could help offset the cost of conforming to the historic district and allows the building owners to keep their building up to snuff,” said Morse. “It may cause some people to do something they weren’t planning to do right now because they can get this help. You can grab it while you can.”

The Association initially owned 19 properties, 18 of which were in downtown Bath. Within the past three years, the company has sold all but three of its downtown Bath properties as of Tuesday.

This is the second round of the program and another will be offered next year. Meyers said one owner can apply for more than one round of the grant to help fund separate phases of a project, however construction needs to have begun on the project before the owner can apply for another grant.

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