New Kensington campus offers funding for local businesses

Grants for facade improvements provided for downtown New Kensington
Fith Aveneue New Kensington

The “Corridor of Innovation” along Fifth Avenue in the downtown section of the city of New Kensington. Building owners and occupants can apply for façade improvement funding through June 30 from Penn State New Kensington. 

Credit: Penn State New Kensington

NEW KENSINGTON, Pa. – Building owners and occupants along the downtown section of Fifth Avenue in the city of New Kensington are eligible for up to $1,000 in grant funds from Penn State New Kensington to upgrade their buildings.

Sponsored by the New Kensington campus, the city of New Kensington and the Community Foundation of Westmoreland County, the funds target buildings located between the 700 and 1100 blocks of Fifth Avenue.  The five-block stretch, called the “Corridor of Innovation,” is anchored by the campus’ Entrepreneur Center at one end and Westmoreland County Community College at the other.

“This partnership is a great example of how a community can come together to improve the area around us,” said Kevin Snider, chancellor of the New Kensington campus. “This is only the first round of what we intend to be a sustained effort working with the city to improve New Kensington's Fifth Avenue.”

The funding project is designed to assist building owners with exterior building improvements for the purpose of creating positive visual impact, stimulating private investment, and complementing other community development efforts. Beautification can increase property values, improve the marketability of space within the buildings and serve as an attraction to potential businesses and residents to invest within the city.

Types of improvements covered by grants include painting, murals, repairs, restoration and signage. The purpose is to create colorful and visually pleasing aesthetics to walkers and drivers on the street. Empty buildings, as well as viable businesses, are eligible for the Façade Improvement Program. 

“Even if a building is vacant, owners can apply for the grants,” said Sarah Snider, who organized the project. “We would really like to help with upgrades to those buildings.”

The corridor currently features a number of businesses, including nine new ones: KafaBuna (700 block), New Kensington Community Garden, Apothecary Soap Company, Salon PO, Fish King (800), Coleman’s Catering and Cafe, New Kensington Art Center (900), and Modfinish and Knead Community Café (1000).

Applications are accepted until June 30. Funds are awarded on a rolling basis.

“There are a lot of people who have stepped up to work on this project,” Chancellor Snider said. “I am particularly grateful to my wife Sarah, the volunteer chair of the project. She has been working with the city and local shop owners to develop this opportunity to improve the face of the city.”

For more information, email Sarah Snider or Candee Christy

Entrepreneur Center, Invent Penn State
The Entrepreneur Center is located in the former Professional Building at the corner of Seventh Street and Fifth Avenue in the city. The campus partnered with the Westmoreland County Industrial Development Corporation, which purchased the building in March and leased it to the campus. When the center opens in the fall, it will be both a spark for small businesses to operate, and an entrepreneur zone designed to encourage innovation and small business development across the Alle-Kiski Valley.

Seed money for the project was funded by a $50,000 grant from Invent Penn State, an initiative that focuses on leveraging Penn State’s research, knowledge and entrepreneurial spirit to bring to market needed ideas, products and services. The premise is to involve campus students, faculty and staff, and community members in generating ideas, then turning those ideas into promising new companies.