It’s no secret that over the past few years, Bristol Borough has been on the rise as one of Bucks County’s top destinations to visit thanks to its scenic waterfront views, charming trolley rides and regular community events.
But soon, the area will boast an even bigger draw for locals and tourists alike — a revitalized business district. It was recently announced that Bristol Borough Raising the Bar, through the Redevelopment Authority of Bucks County, will receive a $50,000 facade grant from the state to improve at least 10 storefronts.
This is the third time the borough has received this grant, which is administered by the Department of Community and Economic Development.
“This is unprecedented. Bristol Borough has been noticed not only in the region, but by the state,” said Bill Pezza, president of Raising the Bar. “They saw how well we implemented the first two programs, and I think that’s why we got the third. So we’re excited and just trying to keep the ball rolling.”
According to Pezza, the eligible district has expanded this year to include all of Mill and Market streets, the first five blocks of Pond Street, two blocks on both Otter and Bath streets and the 000-99, 100 and 200 blocks of Wood, Cedar and Radcliffe streets.
“Our focus is the business district. That’s what we do. That’s what our focus has been,” Pezza said. “What the state doesn’t want to do is put one a mile away and one a half-mile away because then you don’t see the visual impact. What they want is a concentrated look that says, ‘Man, there’s a difference taking place here.’ So what we do in each grant is expand the continuous number of streets that are eligible.”
A few months ago, Raising the Bar publicized its application to DCED so that property owners could prepare themselves for the process of assessing their design goals, meeting with a Design Assistance Team and soliciting cost estimates. Now that the grant is approved, the formal process will begin in late January.
“If you’re interested, you submit a plan. You say, ‘This is what I’d like to do.’ We have a Design Assistance Team that reviews the plan for free and makes the design suggestions,” Pezza said. “What we also try to do is counsel them because ultimately, they can’t get the grant unless they’re approved by the borough’s Historical and Architectural Board.”
While sidewalks and roofs are not eligible, the grant does include pointing brick, painting, awnings and signage at the front, side or back of the building.
“It’s all designed to bring it back to something close to what it once was,” Pezza explained. “If somebody took a building and just completely destroyed the architectural integrity of it, then all we try to do is get them to something that’s more aesthetically appealing than what it currently is. That’s what this program is designed to do.”
Each property owner is entitled to $5,000. If each uses the maximum amount of funding, 10 buildings can be revitalized. If some don’t require the full $5,000, which Pezza said is often the case, an additional building or two is chosen.
Recipients of the first two $50,000 facade grants included Trainpops Attic, King George II Inn, Bucks County Baseball Cards, Noble Earth and the rehearsal studio for Bristol Riverside Theatre on Market Street.
Bristol Borough was one of 42 communities across the commonwealth to receive a DCED grant, all of which totaled more than $5 million.
“These projects will better the lives of thousands of Pennsylvanians through infrastructure, beautification and quality-of-life improvements in cities and towns across Pennsylvania,” said Gov. Tom Wolf.
Since January 2015, the Wolf administration has approved more than $27 million through the Keystone Communities program to fund hundreds of projects statewide, including facade grants for businesses, accessible housing projects, public infrastructure improvements and other projects to strengthen communities and downtown districts.
“Supporting initiatives that encourage revitalization and business development in our communities is critically important to the economic prosperity of Pennsylvania,” said DCED secretary Dennis Davin. “The Keystone Communities program is so vital to improving people’s lives, pushing our business sector forward and growing Pennsylvania’s economy.” ••
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org