A recently announced grant from the Citizens Bank Foundation could position small business owners to take advantage of growing development opportunities in the Hill District.
The $76,000 donation to the Hill District Community Development Corporation was announced at a press conference at the Thelma Lovette YMCA on Oct. 8. The grant is part of Citizens Bank’s new “Growing Communities” initiative created to aid neighborhood revitalization in the Hill District.
A large portion of the funds — $56,000 — will go toward strengthening small businesses in the neighborhood. This will include micro-grants made through the Hill District Development Growth Fund business grants program.
“Our sweet spot is the development that’s happening in the neighborhood and connecting small businesses to that,” Marimba Milliones, president and CEO of the Hill CDC, told City Paper today. “If we’re developing a retail corridor, we need to develop businesses so they can lease space in that development.”
Hill District leaders have been working to ensure residents will benefit from the influx of development coming to their neighborhood. This includes the projected $1.3 billion in development planned for the former Civic Arena site in the lower Hill District.
“We view the lower Hill District as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to spur investment in the rest of the neighborhood, to reconnect from a socio-economic standpoint. We’re not just talking about construction opportunities; we’re talking about business opportunities; we’re talking about post construction opportunities,” Milliones said. “I want to prepare the people of this community.”
According to a press release, the remainder of the grant will be used for:
Home Ownership — A $10,000 investment for a program to help 100 home buyers settle in the Hill District. Citizens will also provide home-buyer education to low- to moderate-income individuals and families;
Workforce Development — A $5,000 investment for research on the impact the neighborhood development has on the local workforce. Results will be used to address the disconnect between local skills and workforce needs; and
Financial Education — A $3,000 investment to provide monthly financial education classes for small business owners and residents at the business center. Topics will include small business budgeting basics and personal financing tips. Citizens Bank volunteers will help conduct the workshops.