Processing Your Payment

Please do not leave this page until complete. This can take a few moments.

July 20, 2022

Emulating Hartford, Waterbury announces $100,000 grants to help businesses locate in its downtown

Michael Puffer | Hartford Business Journal Bank Street in downtown Waterbury.

Waterbury will spend $1.5 million offering matching grants of up to $100,000 to help outfit downtown retail spaces for new and growing businesses.

The Board of Aldermen, on Monday, approved spending a portion of the city’s federal COVID-relief funds on the new program. The grants are meant to heal a downtown business district that suffered after large employers including Post University, Webster Bank and others sent staff to work from home at the outset of the pandemic.

That deprived downtown retailers and restaurants of a crucial customer stream, said Lynn Ward, president and CEO of the Waterbury Regional Chamber.

Several businesses shuttered amid the pandemic, Ward said, including the John Bale Book Co., Drescher’s Restaurant, City Pizza and others.

Now, with a growing number of workers returning to downtown offices and developers adding dozens of new apartments, city officials feel the incentive program could help recruit a new crop of entrepreneurs and businesses.

“There has been a significant improvement in the number of people coming downtown,” Ward said. “That is why we think this is a good time for investors to invest downtown.”

Grant applications will begin to be accepted Aug. 1. Downtown building owners can apply for grants of up to $100,000 to prepare space for new retail and restaurant tenants who are ready to commit to leases of up to at least two years.

These landlords, their tenants or a combination of the two must match city spending on upgrades to façades or interiors for the new businesses.

Mayor Neil O'Leary said downtown property owners were very interested when informed about the idea of the program. 

"So we are hoping it will give these guys some relief," O'Leary said. "They have empty buildings. They are paying taxes and utilities. We are hoping to get some startup businesses in there. We would especially like to see some women and minority-owned businesses." 

O'Leary said if the grant program is a success, the city is prepared to invest even more money. 

Chamber staff will administer the program through the chamber's nonprofit foundation. Ward said applicants can expect a response about a month after final application paperwork is submitted. 

The program is modeled after Hartford’s “Hart Lift” program, which is using $6 million in COVID-relief to fund matching grants of up to $150,000 for the outfit space for new retail and restaurant businesses throughout the capital city.

Announced in December, Hartford’s program has already awarded $3.5 million to help landlords outfit space for 35 new or growing businesses.

“The Central Business District Investment Program is a unique initiative that is designed to spur new economic activity within the downtown Waterbury area,” said Mary Rosengrant-Chiappalone, chairwoman of the Waterbury Regional Chamber Board of Directors.

Under Waterbury’s program, special consideration will be given to restaurant spaces, vacant spaces next to other vacant spaces, as well as properties leasing to minority or women-owned businesses.

Chamber officials plan to announce further details in the coming weeks. Questions can be addressed to Joseph Violette at or 203-757-0701 ext. 319.

Sign up for Enews


Order a PDF