The Kitchen on Court Street installed a platform for outdoor dining ahead of a city program that will start in September. (Saphara Harrell/Salem Reporter)

On-street dining was such a success in downtown Salem during the pandemic that the city is handing out money to keep it around.

The city of Salem will now offer businesses grants to help build dining patios allowing people to eat outdoors.

The Riverfront Downtown Urban Renewal Area will spend $500,000 on an “Open for Business Grant Program” to help businesses create permanent spaces for outdoor seating that follow the city’s design guidelines.

Urban renewal areas are special districts where a portion of the property taxes generated in them is used for redevelopment projects meant to attract private investment and improve property values. 

The Riverfront Downtown Urban Renewal Area covers an area stretching from Market Street Northeast to Ferry Street Southeast, and from the Willamette River to Church Street.  

The program will pay up to half of a project’s cost with a maximum grant of $20,000. Kristin Retherford, urban development director, said the city hasn’t set a date for the grants to go live because it’s working through administrative issues.

The on-street dining program approved by the Salem City Council in May starts in September.

The city has formal design guidelines for so-called “parklets” or platforms that convert on-street parking into seating that restaurants must get licenses for. The guidelines called for the parklets to have elevated platforms, railings and planter boxes.

A May staff report said no more than 6% of the 1,106 on-street parking spaces downtown can be used for platforms, accounting for 66 spaces. Then 15 businesses were using 60 parking spaces.

Downtown businesses can use the grant funds to construct dining platforms or install gas or electrical for outdoor dining.

Retherford said in May some of the platforms could cost between $20,000 and $30,000. 

Contact reporter Saphara Harrell at 503-549-6250, [email protected]

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