A grant from OED and support from the ‘Fax Partnership is helping businesses to beautify east Colfax, one storefront at a time
By, Erin Vanderberg
Last year, the ‘Fax Partnership, a nonprofit organization working to support the revitalization of East Colfax, launched a pilot façade grant program which awarded $10,000 in grants to businesses from Colorado Boulevard to Yosemite Street for their storefront beautification efforts. This February, the program received $30,000 from the Denver Office of Economic Development to keep the program going.
“I spent $4,000 and received 1,750 from the program, which was great,” said Ibrahim Daleh, owner of the Phoenician Kabob, a Mediterranean restaurant at the corner of Colfax and Ivy. “Believe me, if it was not for the grant money, it would have been difficult to even go for it.”
With this year’s grant, the ‘Fax Partnership will award up to 15 façade projects, and the West Colfax Business Improvement District was awarded an identical grant to do the same. In addition, up to $100,000 in loan funds will be offered by the Mile High Community Loan Fund for property owners undertaking larger projects. Funds may only be spent on exterior materials – paint, lighting, awnings and windows – and the applicant must match the funds with their own money. Last year, the $10,000 in grants spurred more than $80,000 worth of improvements to East Colfax businesses.
“The goal here is to invest targeted public funds to incentivize larger private improvements,” said ‘Fax Partnership’s Executive Director Hilarie Portell. “And those improvements add up – people start to notice positive changes, spruced up buildings and a sense of forward movement. That momentum speaks volumes to other businesses or developers thinking of investing in East Colfax Avenue.”
Portell says that the response from Colfax businesses has been great. “You’ve never met a nicer group of people, really committed to Colfax Avenue and serving the surrounding neighborhoods.”
Grant applicants must turn in formal applications that include proposed project details. A professional Design Review Committee, consisting of an architect, an urban designer and a business owner, reviews each submission, often providing professional feedback to help an applicant improve their design within their budget constraints.
The façade grant program is just one of many ‘Fax Partnership endeavors. Founded in 2006 by area residents and property owners under the guidance of then Councilwoman Marcia Johnson, the organization’s goal is to forge relationships that encourage East Colfax revitalization.
Today, the ‘Fax Partnership board of directors is comprised of Colfax business owners as well as residents from neighborhoods surrounding Colfax—Park Hill, Mayfair, Historic Montclair, East Montclair, Bellevue-Hale and Lowry. All of the surrounding RNO’s are also members of the Fax Partnership.
Since 2006, the ‘Fax Partnership has: recruited businesses, including Weisco Motor Car and Marzyck Fine Foods; facilitated development, like Phoenix on the ‘Fax, the new mixed-use development at Colfax and Poplar; and supported existing businesses, through district branding and marketing, educational workshops, crime and graffiti response, access to financing, and networking opportunities.
This year, the organization is focused on how the ‘Fax district can become a more desirable consumer destination. The strategic plan includes a retail market study to seek out retail gaps, a survey of neighbors, business and property owner outreach, and organizing to make physical improvements to the streetscape.
“It really is Denver’s main street, and should be a regular stop for people living in surrounding neighborhoods,” Portell said. “There’s a lot to do, but much enthusiasm on Colfax. The ball is rolling, we just have to keep on it!”
For more information and to register for The Fax Partnership’s monthly e-newsletter, visit thefaxdenver.com.