There is a new program that can help business improve their storefronts in Duluth

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Across the United States cities are working to re-energize their downtowns. The pandemic was especially hard on downtown businesses. Duluth’s downtown is connected to our busy waterfront and Canal Park.
Foot traffic has returned to Duluth’s city center, but now there is an effort to make the waterfront district storefronts even more engaging.

“We really looked at different ways of revitalizing the downtown area since the pandemic and saw this as a really good opportunity to really activate various areas while also assisting businesses,” said Kristi Stokes, the co-chair of the Mayor’s Downtown Task Force and President of Downtown Duluth.

Downtown Duluth unveiled a new and first-of-its-kind grant program available with funds up to $2,500 to any street level in downtown Duluth and Canal Park for storefront window improvements. The program came as a recommendation from the Mayor’s Downtown Task Force.

Grant applications and requirements can be found at Those applications can be summited online and must be received by March 3rd. Ten businesses will be selected in the first round, with the work on the store windows completed by June 1st.

These grants are sponsored by Downtown Duluth in partnership with the Entrepreneur fund and Duluth 1200 Fund.

Stokes shares that the money is targeting restaurants, retail, office spaces, and entertaining businesses looking to revamp their storefront windows and lighting. “We really want to foster a 24 seven type of downtown, make it more active. So 24 hours a day, seven days a week. So, that really means opening up those windows and making them very active and appealing. So almost as if the store comes up to the sidewalk, and the sidewalk comes in.”

If you are interested in learning more about the program, Stokes mentions some of the requirements that come with applying for the grant. “We want to make sure that their business is in the downtown and Canal Park area, so we provide more information about that on our website. Just kind of the boundaries within our district. We really expect that if an individual does receive this grant, they will look at these requirements such as keeping the lights on 24 seven using LED lights, and being able to have a storefront that is lit up at night as well.”

Dream Cloud Coffee Roasters owner and operator Emily Connick sees the new program as a way of capturing more people’s attention as they explore the waterfront area. “I think it’s important. I always like something a little different, eye-catching. I think it’s important for people to be themselves when they open a business or whatever that is. If it’s like a bright, bright pop of paint on the outside of the building or a really big neon sign, that’s what we were in for with ours.”