Topnotch Silkscreen owner Anthony Slezak, Aquinas Literacy Center Executive Director Alison Altmeyer and 12th Ward Alderman George Cardenas gather in front of Aquinas' storefront facade, which is slated for an overhaul with its Small Business Improvement Fund grant.

Local Enterprises Land Grant Funding Toward Building Improvements

Published February 13, 2019

Three neighborhood enterprises have successfully landed grants from the Small Business Improvement Fund of Chicago's Archer and Western Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District to help improve their properties in 2019. The building for the Aquinas Literacy Center at 1751 W. 35th St., the prospective restaurant space at 1734 W. 35th St. and the Topnotch Silkscreening building at 3382 S. Archer Ave. all were approved by Chicago's Department of Planning and Development for significant funding of their property improvement costs.

Aquinas and property owner Kenneth Ricci stand to get 50 percent of the costs funded toward improving the building's frontage. "Our goal is to improve the facade so it is whole and it energizes the community," said Aquinas Executive Director Alison Altmeyer. In addition to swapping existing siding for brick veneer, the street-facing Aquinas facade will get new storefront elements, including a new door, aluminum framing and double-insulated glass windows.

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Topnotch Silkscreening owner Anthony Slezak said the small business funding "is definitely going to help us. It's challenging to cover these costs entirely out of pocket." The Topnotch property improvement is focused on roof replacement and masonry repairs for its building at a total estimated project cost of $106,750, of which $35,500 would be covered via grant funding.

"The Small Business Improvement Fund allows us to support small business," said 12th Ward Alderman George Cardenas. His office has been active in promoting and supporting applications for the funding, which is not paid to property owners until all work has been completed and program requirements satisfied.

The overhaul of the former Nicky's restaurant space at 1734 W. 35th St. has $86,872.50 of grant funding pegged toward an estimated cost of $105,300 to overhaul the interior to support a new restaurant tenant. Owner Robert Lyons and his wife, Andrea Miller Lyons, have been working through 2018 to improve the property, including installation of a new mural from local street artist Stuk1 as part of a Chicago Bears-sponsored community art campaign.

The estimated cost for the Aquinas Literacy Center improvements is $103,890, with $57,139.50 approved in grant funding. Both Aquinas and Topnotch Silkscreening have until October 7, 2019, to complete all improvement work; the former Nicky's space at 1734 W. 35th St. has a construction deadline of August 12, 2019.

Application for and administration of Small Business Improvement Fund grants is handled by SomerCor, a non-profit Certified Development Company that helps entrepreneurs and small businesses find financing. Local small businesses that wish to know more about grants and support opportunities can connect via SomerCor's sign up page on its website.

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