D.C. has doled out a total $1.2 million in interest-free loans over the past nine months to more than a dozen small-businesses that have endured revenue losses as a result of the city's multimillion dollar street beautification and reconstruction projects.
The 14 loans come from a program instituted by the city's Department of Small and Local Business Development last November and range from $40,000 to nearly $151,000. The recipients include nine businesses on H Street Northeast, where a trolley line was installed last year, and six businesses in Adams Morgan, where a streetscaping on 18th Street recently wrapped up.
To apply for the loan, businesses owners had to prove that they were hurt by the city's construction.
"A lot of people couldn't tell that I was open," said Carolyn Thomas owner of C.A.T.Walk Boutique on H Street. "On several occasions I'd go there and they were digging right in front of the door so I couldn't open that day. Another day couldn't open because they [were laying in] new cement on the sidewalk. I was already on a part of H Street where if you blink, you miss it."
Thomas, who received a $40,000 loan, said she used the money for inventory and supplies and put some of it toward leasing her new location on 10th and H streets, Northeast.
The loan program was established after a streetscaping project in Dupont Circle was so disruptive that some restaurants closed and others said they lost as much as 60 percent of their business in 2007 and 2008.
"I think the city is now recognizing the impact of major street construction on small businesses and doing something proactive about it," said Kristen Barden, executive director of the Adams Morgan business improvement project.
Even though owners have to wait until they start losing money before they can apply for the loan, it still helps them recover, said Cathy Chung, co-owner of Meeps in Adams Morgan, which received a $75,000 loan to remodel her store.
"I think we were a little too optimistic about the streetscape and how quickly our renovation would turn around," she said.