The Joint Council approved a grant program last week that will provide funding for renovations to independent retailers on State Street.

Under the new $400,000 grant program, the city will subsidize State Street retailers for internal renovations, Ruth Rohlich, Madison business development specialist, said. This will allow retailers to improve their properties and better compete with restaurants and bars on State Street, Rohlich said.

This increased competition will diversify business on State Street, making the State Street area a more attractive living location for young Madisonians, city housing specialist Matt Wachter said.

“These people are looking for amenities within walking distance,” Wachter said.

Currently restaurants and bars outnumber retail businesses on State Street. Mayor Paul Soglin and Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, proposed the grant program in an effort to maintain a balance between restaurants, bars and retailers, Rohlich said.

This imbalance between retail businesses and restaurants and bars is attributable to the ease of owning and operating an eating or drinking establishment in comparison to a retail business, Rohlich said.

“It is a lot easier for a restaurant or bar, especially those that sell alcohol, than a retail store to generate a monthly income,” Rohlich said.

Since buildings on State Street can be difficult and impractical for retail businesses to move into, opening a new retail store on State Street can be an expensive endeavor, Rohlich said.

The renovations and improvements the city’s new grant program promote will hopefully make it easier for new retailers to move into buildings on State Street, Rohlich said.

Dane County residents must be the owners of half of the businesses applying for funding, Rohlich said.

Rohlich said the program is expected to last roughly two years.