Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Businesses around Columbia are getting a face-lift.

It's all thanks to a program that's years in existence, but recently expanded to provide even more help.

Just off Millwood Avenue sits Carolyn's Flowers and Gifts. They're a participant this year in the city's Commercial Retention and Redevelopment Program.

"As people ride by now, they look and say, 'Wow!'" said owner, Carolyn Kelly. "They give me much more business, they can see me clearly."

For years, the program only focused on renovating the exterior of businesses in need of TLC, hence the name "Facade Improvement Program". Last year, the program expanded to include the interior.

"The city came along and they wanted to upgrade Millwood, so I was one of the choices they made," said Kelly. "[They helped in] getting the building painted, inside they did an excellent job painting, we did new ceilings and floors."

Kelly says she also added new lights to the outside of the building.

"They had six days to do it. Within the first three weeks, the building was so different and looked so good," she added. "People decided to come in and say, 'This is the flower shop?' I was like, 'Yes! Yes!'"

The program includes two-year forgivable loans.

For the exterior, businesses can borrow up to $15,000, with that, there's a requirement that a business put down 20% of their own funds. 

The interior has a maximum loan of $10,000, but there is no match for that sum. In total, businesses can get up to $25,000 to improve the property.

Officials with the Office of Business Opportunities tell us with the two-year forgivable loan, 50% of the loan goes away after the first year. After the following year, if the business is still in good standing, the rest of the loan is forgivable - meaning they won't have to pay a penny more.

Each year, city officials have specific areas they target for renovations. They typically look at spots around town with a high number of code violations.

This year, they're focusing on four areas: 

  • Harden Street between Walker Solomon Way and Blossom Street
  • Taylor Street between Harden and North Millwood
  • Gervais between Harden and Millwood
  • Millwood between Taylor and King Street.

Off North Main Street, Toliver's Mane Event Barber Shop is another business that came alive thanks to help from the city.

"[The building is] an old gas station that must have sat here for 30 years doing nothing," said owner, Herbert Toliver, who moved to the location from Northside Plaza in 2014.

Toliver, who is a third generation barber, says the city loaned them money to help renovate the building.

"Made a way for us some money that helped me along the way, and I appreciate them to the day that they did what they did," said Toliver. "Every little bit helped."

Funding for the program comes from general funds from the city and community development funds.

"We're very, very grateful that the Lord has blessed us to have what we have," said Toliver. "It's been a good ride and I'm not tired yet. That's right. I still enjoy coming to work six days a week."

The Trestle building off North Main also participated in the program. The owner told News 19 the program helped him add lighting to the exterior of the building.

For more information on the city's Commercial Retention and Redevelopment Program, click here.