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Façade Improvement Grant Program

New Britain Downtown District Façade Improvement Program

Terms and Conditions

The New Britain Downtown District may allocate up to $20,000 from the Downtown District Surplus to fund the Façade Improvement Program. The program will run for one year concurrent with the New Britain Downtown District’s fiscal year, or until the money allocated is depleted, whichever comes first. After that time, the program will be reevaluated for its effectiveness and it will be determined if the program should be continued. This is a program that can have a potentially large impact on the visual appearance of Downtown New Britain. All property owners will benefit in one way or another due to increased property values, civic pride, and increased economic activity.


Property and business owners are eligible for up to a 50% matching grant to fund façade improvements to their building and/or storefront. The grant recipient must match the amount through funding of their own or through a loan. The maximum grant will be $5000.00.

Applicants may apply for additional grants; the aggregate total amount of awards cannot exceed $10,000.00 in one year.

The matching grant must be used in accordance with the “design guidelines” that have been put together through the New Britain Downtown District office. The “design guidelines” have been put together to ensure that a quality product will be produced. Any business or property owner that does not follow these guidelines will not be eligible for the façade improvement funds. All design must be in accordance with city zoning requirements.

The following types of improvements to the façade of a building and/or business, and its surrounds are eligible:
· Correction of Exterior Code Violations
· Painting and Siding
· Historical Lighting Installation/Restoration
· Signs
· Awnings
· Restoration of Historically Significant Signage
· General Exterior Repairs
· Door and Window Replacement/Restoration
· Trim/Cornice Replacement/Restoration
· Removal of Security Grates
· Historical Rehabilitation and Preservation
· Display Window Renovations
· Signage Improvements are eligible. The signage improvement grant may be up to 50% of the property/business owner’s cost of a sign, with a maximum grant of $1,500.00. No proposals for “box” signs will be accepted.
· An outside improvement that will enhance outside (“Al Fresco”) dinning.
· Cigarette and Trash disposal units.
· Business and property owners that are members of the Downtown District are eligible for the program.


An application first must be completed. This completed application should include a timeline, architectural renderings and/or photographs, contractor name, and budget.

A number of low-interest small business loans may be available through our Downtown banks as well as the City of New Britain. This is an option that recipients may choose to raise their portion of the matching funds.

Usually grants may be payable directly to the contractor that has performed the work. The contractor can be the property owner or business owner. Funds will be allocated once it is determined that the work was done according to plan. Funds may also be paid directly to the property/business owner.

Grants are payable only after the completion of the work set forth in the original plan and are paid not to exceed six (6) months after the entire project is completed.

Property and/or business owners that receive the Façade Improvement Program funding are required to remain the sole property owner of that property for a period following construction of at least 24 months. If this requirement is violated, the grant must be paid back in full to the Downtown District.

Applications must be approved by the Façade Improvement Committee of the Downtown District. This committee has the right to refuse any application based on incompatibility with the guidelines, terms and conditions set forth.

Property owners must approve in writing and grant request by a tenant.

Façade Improvement Program:

Downtown District Design Guidelines:

The New Britain Downtown District, as chief sponsor of the Facade Improvement Program, has developed the following design guidelines. The Downtown District Design Guidelines encourage good design by addressing issues that business and property owners face in planning commercial and retail improvements. This document represents a means of improving the physical environment of New Britain’s Downtown District. The design guidelines address the physical aspects of a healthy commercial area from storefront design issues to maintenance of buildings and the public way.


Approaching Storefront Improvements:

Storefronts define the overall character of a commercial area and are the focus of the Downtown District revitalization process. Framed by the building façade and structure, the storefront is transformed under each new owner or business. The storefront establishes the visual relationship between the interior of a shop and the sidewalk and presents the character of the business. Its design and use are crucial to advertising and merchandising practices. Storefronts can help unify a neighborhood street and should be visually integrated with the building itself.

The Storefront:

The storefront frame – an area typically one story in height – is defined by the structure of the building. Construction, which respects the framework of the building, produces clear, clean results. For purposes of display and visual safety, as much of this area as possible should be transparent glass.


Storefronts that exceed the property line and storefront frame of the building.

Changing a storefront’s historical features or removing historical material.

Creating a false historical appearance by introducing architectural details not related to those typical of the building or district.

Use of replacement materials that do not convey the same visual appearance as existing materials.

Alterations that are incompatible in scale, size, material, or color.

New signs, awnings, or other elements which obscure, damage, or destroy original features of the building.

Blocking existing windows and doorways.

Recessing an entire storefront within the frame of an existing building should be avoided. This situation creates corners that collect trash, takes leasable floor space away from the interior of the store, and provides unwelcome loitering spaces.


Storefronts designed to fit within the original storefront opening.

Replace missing storefront elements with quality materials.

General continuity among individual storefronts, the entire building façade, and neighboring property should be considered when carrying out renovations.

Where solid areas within a storefront frame are required, a clear distinction between the frame and the infill made through a change in color, material, or texture.

Storefront Components:

The first step in carrying out storefront renovations is identification of the parts of a building. Each piece of a storefront poses a set of options that together contributes to the overall image of a business. Consistency of storefront transom windows and base heights helps to provide continuity in the streetscape. Purchasing the most expensive item available for each component is not always the best solution for a business or building. The careful planning of an entire project provides a strong business image and can be cost effective at the same time.

Window Base:

The window base supports and protects the display window from damage and weathering. The base also raises the display area to a more easily viewed height. Typical materials include wood, marble, brick, concrete, and ceramic tiles. The window base is often simplified in new storefronts; however, it should retain the storefront line and proportions.


Elimination of the window base.

Altering the height of the window base relative to the proportions of the original building or the base height of adjacent storefronts.

Using materials that are easily damaged or that deteriorate quickly.


Design and construct replacement window bases consistent with a building’s scale, size, and original materials.

Ensure that the height of the storefront window base is consistent with adjacent storefronts in a building.

Retain, maintain, repair, or uncover original materials where possible. If unable to do so, replacement materials should match or exceed the quality of the originals.

Use highly durable and easily maintained materials at the base of a building.

Door and Windows:

Doors and display windows are often referred to as the “storefront system”. Together they establish the visual relationship between the interior of

the shop and the sidewalk. Well-maintained windows and display areas are important to good business practices and their size should be maximized in order to present an inviting appearance. Transforming storefront windows to make them appealing to the customer is a cost effective way to promote products and services.


Entries are best recessed and must comply with all zoning and accessibility requirements. Recessed entries serve as sheltered areas that protect customers from the weather and prevent doors from swinging onto sidewalks. Clearly marked on the storefront, a recessed entry provides a sense of welcome and creates depth on the building’s surface.


Adding new or secondary entrances that are incompatible in size, scale, or material.

Enclosing old entrances with solid materials such as wood or masonry.

Blocking one side of a double door entry with merchandise.

Constructing doorways that swing out onto sidewalks.

Converting glass door panels to opaque materials such as metal or wood.

Using doors with a false historical appearance.


Visible entries located on the main street.

Doors with large glass panels that provide the most visibility into a business.

New doors compatible with a building’s overall character.

Additional entrances added only when indispensable.

Loading and service entrances located on the side or rear of a building where possible.

Wood frame doors, since they can be painted a color of choice, have more detail and are durable material.

Display Windows:

Display windows are the link between the pedestrian and the business. They are the character-defining element of retail or commercial buildings and their original size, division, and shape should be preserved where possible. Neglecting broken or boarded up display windows results in a negative image for both the business and the district as a whole.


Covering or blocking a display window or filling the opening with non-transparent material.

Filling a window opening with glass block that does not allow views into a business.

Changing the pattern or size of original storefront openings through removal or replacement of windows.

Covering or obscuring existing window trim with metal or other materials.

Removing historical windows or window components.

Inserting new ceilings which block windows, or modifying exterior appearances for such changes.

Small paned windows unless characteristic of building’s architectural style or original design.

Use of Plexiglas instead of glass.

Obscuring display window with cases, fliers or non-product items that block views into the business.


Transparent glass; replace dark, tinted or textured glass with clear glass.

Replacement windows that are a similar scale as the originals.

Identify and preserve historical features such as frames, special glazing, and decorative moldings.

Replace deteriorated areas with matching items.

Create a cohesive storefront appearance by aligning window heights and unifying window sizes.

Where offices occupy former retail spaces, window displays and blinds are preferred to blocking windows.

Wood frame window. Windows that can be painted a color of choice has more detail than aluminum and is as durable a material.

Aluminum frame windows, if they are of a high quality to ensure thermal insulation and prevent condensation.

Clean window with creative, interesting displays.

Transom Windows:

A horizontal band of small windows above display windows and doors, transom windows historically provided ventilation and allowed daylight deep into the store’s interior. As a design feature they are an important element in the proportions of the storefront. Often during alterations, transom windows have been hidden by dropped ceilings or covered on the exterior. To accommodate a lower ceiling height, a soffit over the display area can step up at the storefront to meet the height of the transom windows. At a minimum, opaque panels may be placed within transom window frames to allow the window pattern to remain.


Covering transom area with any non-transparent material such as signs or wood panels.

Filling transom area with masonry, glass block or other non-transparent materials.


Retain transom window integrity even when hidden by awnings, since they are visible when customers approach the storefront or when awnings are rolled up or removed.

Retain the original pattern of transom windows.

Make the transom window frame of a compatible material and design with that of the display windows and doorframes.

When installing dropped ceilings, a soffit should be used at the storefront in order to preserve the full window height and to bring light into the store.

Frieze/Sign Band:

The frieze or sign band is the horizontal segment of the storefront located above the display window and below the second floor windows, storefront or building cornice. In many storefronts, this area is designated by a distinct band of pre-cast concrete, plaster, wood, or other material and is the typical location for business signs. In some buildings, a change in the pattern of bricks marks this space on the storefront. As part of general maintenance, the sign band should be kept clear of extraneous pieces of wood or metal so that new signs can be mounted flush against the surface. This measure prevents weathering of signs and minimizes nesting places for birds.


Oversized signs or inappropriately placed awnings which cover, obscure, or extend beyond the frieze/sign band area.


Fit signs within the original space of the frieze or sign band.

Attach awnings to the building at or below the lower edge of the sign band.

When building detail does not include a traditional sign band, a similar effect is achieved by locating signs or panels in a consistent location on adjacent storefronts.

Significant Signs:

A well-designed sign is one of the most important elements of a storefront. As publicly displayed information, it reflects the personality of a business. While locating and advertising a business, signs also add visual interest to the streetscape experience and contribute to the character of a neighborhood. Signs are a powerful graphic tool. Bigger and more is not always the best strategy. An automobile passenger can only perceive an average of four words or symbols on a storefront and this number decreases according to the total amount of signage on adjacent buildings. The combined impact of large repetitive messages contributes to visual clutter and results in the viewer blocking out all information. Clear, well-designed signs best market a business through quick impact. In the context of a streetscape, a well-planned storefront is a sign in itself and can effectively communicate business character.


High-intensity sign lights or the excessive illumination of signs.

Obscuring of removing a building’s elements such as windows, cornices or decorative details to accommodate signs.

Internally illuminated or backlit plastic signs.

Excessive use of window signs.

Visual clutter and excessive information.

Use of cloth signs which, if not well-maintained, can convey an image of deterioration.

Neon signs with brand name advertising.


Signs scaled to fit the design of the building and storefront.

Well-designed, legible signs and graphics.

Place signs in clear, architecturally-defined areas on windows, awnings, or suitable wall spaces such as the sign band.

Remove all old, non-functional signs and brackets.

Panel, wall, or flush-mounted signs forming a clearly articulated band on the face of the building.

Using durable material types such as MDO plywood, metal or molded letters.

Projecting signs or blade signs perpendicular to the sidewalk when scaled for pedestrian use.

Painted window signs providing an additional level of information about the business, such as store hours or types of services.

Icon, graphic, or three-dimensional signs.

Restoring historical signs if they contribute to business image.

Opaque, reverse channel letters that are illuminated from behind. These are different from internally illuminated plastic letters, which are not acceptable.

Icon type neon signs.


Awnings cover the area between the sidewalk and building. They protect pedestrians and shelter display windows from sun, rain, and snow. Awnings add depth to the building surface and embellish entrances. Awning locations should respect the storefront framework in order to maintain a visual connection with upper floors and reinforce the rhythm of the streetscape. When used in appropriate locations, awnings can be an effective investment, as on south-facing storefronts, over outdoor seating areas, and over entrances. Situated on north-facing storefront locations, or as substitutes for signs, is not the most effective economical use of awnings. Even though awnings may appear temporary in nature, they can affect the overall image of the building. Proper maintenance and repair of awnings are important in conveying a positive visual image. While awnings that incorporate signs or graphics may be cost effective initially, long-term maintenance as information changes or as awnings fade is difficult, unattractive, or impossible.


Vinyl or plastic materials.

Concealing architectural details with continuous or oversized awnings.

Backlit or internally illuminated awnings.

Unusually shaped awnings or bull nose awnings that are not compatible with storefront design or existing architectural forms.


Canvas awnings.

Simple awning shapes.

Awnings with open ends are preferred and are less susceptible to vandalism.

Both retractable and fixed type awnings are acceptable. If vandalism is a concern, the retractable type may be preferred.

Under-awning lights, which illuminate the sidewalk and storefront. This type is different from backlit awnings, which are unacceptable.

On multi-storefront buildings, separate awnings should be located within each storefront opening so that the building frame and details are revealed.

Awnings on a single building should be consistent in size, profile and location whether they are for the same business or not.

Creative awning shapes must be carefully designed and coordinated with the overall appearance of the building.

Minimal signage on awning, located primarily on the valance.


Lighting has two purposes. First, lighting illuminates the business. Second, it discourages crime. Lighting creates a feeling of security for the passersby and is an important factor in a commercial setting. A variety of light sources and locations should be considered in carrying out storefront renovations. Sign lights, display window lights, architectural lighting, and general area lighting is encouraged to advertise the business, highlight building features, and to illuminate dark corners of the property or street. In some cases, where general street lighting is sufficient, a storefront may require minimal illumination.


Flashing, pulsating, dynamic, or moving lights.

Lights which glare onto the street, public way or adjacent properties.

Fixtures that do not correspond to the character of the building.

Neon tubing bordering display windows.


Street lighting typically provides general exterior illumination. Where this lighting is minimal, providing an even level of illumination may be desired.

Indirect lighting is encouraged.

General interior lighting of display areas helps prevent break-ins by allowing both police and passersby to see the activity within a store.

The scale and style of light fixtures should be in keeping with the storefront design.

Decorative fixtures such as sconces and general building lighting accent storefronts and enhance a building’s architectural details.

Lighting should attract attention to signs, store information or building details, but not to itself.

Supplemental security lighting such as flood lights should be hidden or shielded to avoid glare.


Storefront security is paramount in any retail environment and any neighborhood. However, elements such as metal bars and grates reflect a feeling of fear and of a crime-plagued area. These perceptions, whether real or not, result in a decrease in popularity and prosperity of a commercial zone. Solid grates are a liability for several reasons: they detract from the neighborhood quality of the street, they feel unsafe, they conceal the interior from view, and they are hard to keep free of graffiti. Where open mesh grates are an absolute necessity, they are best built into the interior of the storefront ceiling where they are concealed during the day. There are a variety of ways of securing a business without evidence of fortifications. Large, transparent windows and doors allow pedestrians and traffic to visually monitor business safety. Security measures can also be enhanced through discrete solutions such as quality locks, internal alarms and notification systems, laminated safety glass and community watch efforts.


External Cameras are allowed.

The installation of electronic alarm systems, especially when combined with laminated safety glass. These measures provide a reliable security means.

Lighting of both buildings and streets to deter crime.

Decorative metal gates to secure a vestibule area.

Removal of exterior roll down grates and grate boxes is preferred. When necessary, open mesh type security grates must have:

The grate box or housing unit located as unobtrusively as possible above the storefront window or in the interior ceiling above the display window.

Vertical and horizontal guide tracks should be installed parallel to display window’s vertical and horizontal framing elements.

Colors for all roll down elements should match the color scheme of the building.

Exterior grates should be built into the storefront.


Outside solid roll-down grates are Disallowed.

Grates mounted on the exterior of a storefront are discouraged. At a minimum, existing surface mounted exterior grate boxes should be concealed by an awning.

Horizontally closing, scissor type grates.

Security bars on the exterior of windows and doors.

Replacing or covering glass with Plexiglas which deteriorates quickly.

Materials and Color:

Materials and color are two of the most important aspects of storefront design which convey an image of quality and care. Materials and color contribute to the store’s advertising strategy as well as to the building’s overall image. Protection and maintenance of the building features are important in rehabilitation work and often dictate the boundaries within which a designer or owner intervenes. Following appropriate repair and restoration techniques ensure a quality, durable storefront finish and easy maintenance needs over time. Paint color is a relatively inexpensive and dramatic way to define a business or storefront. Even though color selection is the owner’s choice, the color scheme should be compatible with neighboring businesses and should set a standard of quality. Loud colors used to attract attention are often counterproductive and they appear to be merely a quick or inexpensive choice.


Removing existing, historical, quality materials from a building contributes to a loss of district identity. Such actions must be viewed in the larger context where the cumulative effect can lead to a decline in the overall appearance of the business district.

Using materials that are unrelated to the original building, or those which cover or alter architectural features.

Artificial sidings such as aluminum, vinyl, imitation brick, asphalt, and imitation stone products.

Materials that are easily damaged or that deteriorate quickly. Low-grade plywood, while inexpensive, is not durable.

Chemical washes, sandblasting, and other cleaning methods that damage exterior building materials such as brick or limestone.

Brick should not be painted unless absolutely necessary to prevent further deterioration. Generally, repointing and repairing brick is a more durable solution.

Rough-sawn materials such as wood paneling, simulating a false historical look.

Painting this material hastens its deterioration.

Concrete block products should be avoided.

The use of stucco products is not encouraged.

Arbitrary painting of decorative lines, band or graphic devices directly on to a wall if not related to architectural character or detailing.


Original materials should be retained, maintained, repaired or uncovered whenever possible.

Materials that are of compatible quality, color, texture, finish and dimension to those common in the project area are preferred.

Highly durable and easily maintainable materials should be used at the base of a building and at entrances for ease of maintenance.

High quality materials such as stone, terra cotta, and brick are durable in nature and convey a feeling of permanence.

New brick and mortar must match originals.

Retaining early “modern” materials if they are unique and complementary to present appearance, or if they contribute to the character of the building.

Building style, historical character, or business type should be considered in choosing a color scheme for a project.

A painting scheme should highlight the architectural details of the building. For example, rosettes, dentils, and trim can be painted to contrast with the background color of a building.

The orientation of a building affects the appearance of colors. For example, colors appear warmer in a south or west orientation and cooler in the north or east orientation.

Matching natural colors of materials such as brick and stone may be desired in some projects.

General Maintenance:

General maintenance is a first step in the improvement of existing buildings and in changing the appearance of a neighborhood business district. Deferred maintenance of items such as peeling paint, torn awnings or broken window panes contributes to a look of overall deterioration. Studies have shown that fixing broken windows in a timely fashion helps to deter subsequent vandalism by asserting ownership. In carrying out improvement projects, the selection of the proper materials, while perhaps at a higher initial price, can save costs over time due to durability and low maintenance requirements. Basic tasks, such as cleaning, repairs, or washing window can transform a building and have a large impact at a low cost. Stewardship is a key step toward district upkeep and is crucial in maintaining a business that is exemplary of the commercial area. Sweeping entries, cleaning sidewalks, maintaining window displays, and caring for plantings demonstrates to the passerby that there is a sense of pride in both the business and the neighborhood. Over time, preventative maintenance practices pay off.

Suggestions for Maintenance:

Arrange partnerships with city agencies for maintaining plantings, sidewalks, and trash receptacles.

Clean and repaint a storefront regularly, typically every 3-5 years.

Wash windows and sidewalks regularly, at least once a week.

Use durable materials and hire reputable contractors.

Remove outdated signs and information from storefront windows in a timely manner.

Remove all old, non-functional signs, brackets, fixtures, and wiring.

Maintain window boxes, bushes and other plantings.

Immediately removing or painting over graffiti discourages repeat vandalism.