The Portland Development Commission’s pilot program is new to most, including the successful grant applicants and the pilot project grantees.

According to Susan Kuhn, is available to each of the nine successful pilot program grantees “for approved and eligible work,” and the exact amounts given to each candidate are still undetermined. Therefore, PDC has budgeted $90,000 for the nine grants. PDC is also paying for the technical visioning and design assistance from its consultant, Seanette Corkill’s consulting business Frontdoor Back (“PDC pilot project participants named” MCM November 2015).

Asked if the grants are in-kind grants requiring matching funds, Kuhn explained via email that “[t]he grant does not require a match, but businesses are required to work with Frontdoor Back to identify improvements that increase business visibility and add to the vitality of the commercial district.”

The grants are to the business owners, says Kuhn. If the business owner were not also the property owner, then the property owner presumably would have to approve the work under the terms of their lease. The grant focuses on interior and exterior improvement work “and must follow guidelines for tax increment fund use.” In other words, certain work may be prioritized over other work subject to payment to contractors under the grant in order to bring “the biggest impact overall to revitalizing the commercial corridor … [and] in general [to] increase business visibility,” says Kuhn.

Kuhn took issue with the Memo’s characterization as “exclusions” from grant funding such as grantee Namaste’s site survey work; engineering work; permitting work; storm water abatement work; utility pole relocation work; and widening and upgrading of the storefront sidewalk and other required PBOT compliance work, none of which are covered under the pilot project grant (“Renovation slowed by transportation improvements” MCM October 2015). Kuhn insists these “are not exclusions[;] they’re not [the] focus of this grant program.” Read: funding these exterior improvements was not exactly excluded; they simply were never included.

So far, it appears that the pilot project pencils out better for some than for others.

At press time, according to architect Lorraine Guthrie, the would-be Namaste Indian Cuisine restaurant business and pilot project grantee still awaits a building permit more than a month after its intended opening.

Kuhn emphasized the pilot project is a test and does not necessarily represent PDC’s standard operating procedure.

For more information about PDC’s pilot program, contact Anne Mangan at or call her at 503-823-2594.