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Others seek grants for improvements
Fredericksburg Economic Development Authority coming up with criteria for which local businesses should get grants

 One EDA grant request came from Seafarer's Coffee House on Caroline Street.
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Date published: 3/13/2008


Several downtown Fredericksburg businesses have approached the city's Economic Development Authority of late to ask for improvement grants.

The requests follow the EDA's recent approvals of $25,000 grants to both Kybecca, which is building a wine and tapas bar at 400 William St., and Capital Ale House, which will open a restaurant and taphouse at 917 Caroline St.

The EDA heard two more grant requests at its Monday meeting. One was from Eileen Boyd of The Griffin Bookshop & Coffee Bar, which plans to open April 1 at its new location at 723 Caroline St. The other came from Jim Goetz, who plans to open Seafarer's Coffee House at 501 Caroline St.

At least one more downtown business owner--Rick Bousquet of Mind-Melds Boutique at 405 William St.--plans to request a business-improvement grant from the EDA.

The city's economic development department has been fielding numerous calls from small businesses asking for help and wondering how to apply, said Kim Schill, Fredericksburg's business development manager.

But all of the interested businesses will have to wait. The EDA is now in the process of formalizing details of its grants program, and it won't vote on any further requests until a policy is worked out. The EDA is putting together rules to govern matters including criteria for what projects qualify, how frequently it will consider requests, and what budget to set for the program.

The Fredericksburg EDA has about $800,000 to work with, said city Economic Development Director Kevin Gullette. The EDA is not funded by the city's budget, but rather takes in fees as the conduit for tax-exempt bond issuances.

EDA Vice Chairman Tom Crimmins noted that word is out that the EDA has money for grants. He said they're intended to stimulate growth and development that will provide future tax revenue for Fredericksburg--which he said Kalahari Resorts and Capital Ale will do. They're not geared primarily toward making the recipient business more profitable.

"The minute we give money to fix someone's air conditioner we're dead meat," Crimmins said. "We'll be giving money to everyone."

Other EDA member suggestions at the Monday meeting included making an arts component part of the criteria, encouraging businesses to stay open later through the grants, and setting a budget based on a percentage of annual bond revenue.

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Fredericksburg Economic Development Authority grants are separate from incentives packages approved by City Council.

EDA grants tend to be significantly smaller than incentives that go through City Council. Also, City Council incentives are based on tax rebates and fee waivers rather than outright grants.

Among other things, City Council incentives guidelines call for a minimum of a $500,000 investment and 25 jobs created.

The city has recently approved incentives for Wegmans and Capital Ale House. It has approved in principle a package for Kalahari Resorts.

Kybecca has applied for an incentives package similar to the one received by Capital Ale--which included $75,000 in tax rebates and fee waivers. City Council could take up the Kybecca request as soon as its March 25 meeting.

Demolition work on Capital Ale's new home on Caroline Street is expected to start a week from Monday, said building owner Joe Wilson. The business is expected to open late this year.

Kybecca co-owner Rebecca Snyder said the outdoor patio at that business's planned wine and tapas bar might open next month. She said the interior probably won't be ready until August or September.

--Bill Freehling