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Owners of the many businesses positioned at Olean's four gateways who are willing to undertake storefront beautification projects may become eligible for low-interest rates on loans to help pay for the work.

The new loan fund being considered by the Olean Renewal Agency could pay for half the beautification costs if the board of directors decided to approve the program during an October meeting.

The plan is viewed as a reward for businesses that could spend between $2,000 and $10,000 to enhance the exterior appearances of their commercial establishments.

Signs, awnings or any other improvements to spruce up the buildings along the community's main entrance arteries -- East State, West State, North Union and South Union streets -- could be eligible.

"We can assist 40 to 50 businesses," said community development director, John Sayegh, about the fund he asked the agency's board of directors to set up during a meeting last week.

"Obviously, not all are going to do a $10,000 job to get to that cap. Some will be less. I am, and the board is, hoping that businesses would buy into this program if the exterior looks of businesses need improvement," he said.

He said that the program is not designed to help with minor repairs worth less than $2,000 because businesses should be capable of making a minimal investment without seeking assistance.

Both the proposal and interest rates must be decided by the board during the agency's upcoming meeting.

Under the plan, applicants must seek URA approval for specified storefront upgrades, make the improvements using their own money or funds borrowed from another source, and submit to an inspection.

Up to half the cost of satisfactory work would then become eligible for a 3 to 5 percent interest rate on a loan from the URA to help pay for the job.

Sayegh said the money could be borrowed at that rate for a three- to five-year period.

"That's something the board has to decide on," Sayegh said. "They're leaning toward a lower interest rate than that. This is an effort to assist those businesses to enhance the looks of their storefronts. At the same time, it would give the city better looks."

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