Business districts have faced a multitude of pandemic-related problems over the past year; however, downtown Charlotte is taking steps to address a new and unexpected obstacle that many other cities would envy.
The Eaton County seat is bursting at the seams and simply has no more room for new businesses.
“We are at 100% capacity and have tenants lined up wanting to open businesses downtown,” said Lisa Barna, executive director of CharlotteRising, the 501(c)(3) economic development organization tasked with cultivating a vibrant, enduring downtown district.
Charlotte is a destination town where families choose to live and where visitors and travelers patronize its businesses, organizations and events. The 10 blocks comprising the downtown area offer a refreshed appeal of historic beauty; a compelling creative hub for unique arts and entertainment; and a welcoming destination to myriad residential spaces, businesses and restaurants.
Barna said that beginning in July, CharlotteRising will be providing occupancy grants of $5,000 to urge downtown business owners to subdivide their spaces and create more frontage for additional businesses.
“Some (businesses) may be able to move into the back of their building, or split their square footage in half,” she said. “Some may be able to move to their second floor, but most of those second floors don’t have electric, don’t have heat and they may have to replace the flooring.”
That’s where the grants come into play.
Since its birth in 2016, CharlotteRising has helped fill 14 vacant buildings downtown. It works from an annual budget of $200,000 — most of which comes from private donors — and the organization is volunteer-based.
“It shows that when you invest locally, good things happen,” said Barna.