Columbia Heights is expanding its efforts to dress up local storefronts and help business owners fine-tune their security.

The city last year launched a grant program to help breathe new life into store facades along Central Avenue, the gateway into the inner-ring suburb.

The program reimburses property owners for up to half their eligible costs for exterior improvements, with a $5,000 maximum reimbursement. Eight businesses received help from the city in the inaugural year for projects that ranged from spruced-up signage to new awnings and windows.

The city has announced that more businesses will be eligible to apply this year, including commercial properties on Central Avenue between NE. 37th and 47th avenues as well as along NE. 39th and 40th avenues.

City leaders envision their main business corridors as part of an up-and-coming area, hoping to feed off the energy of nearby northeast Minneapolis and attract restaurants, bars, cafes and boutiques.

“We had a lot of success with it last year,” said Mitch Forney, community development intern.

The city is setting aside $50,000 for the latest batch of projects in addition to any funding leftover from last year, Forney said. Businesses have until May 31 to apply.

As part of the program, police also sift through the grant applications and install new surveillance cameras near certain businesses and intersections in eligible areas.

Along Central Avenue, the new cameras helped catch a vandal just one day after they went up in December. The cameras captured video of a man who had tagged 12 buildings with graffiti as well as some trash cans and utility boxes, totaling about $2,000 in property damage, police said.

“It seems like nowadays, most of our solvable crimes involve video surveillance footage, so it’s extremely important,” said Capt. Matt Markham.

Officers say efforts to fix up facades and add more video surveillance help curb criminal activity.

“If people know the cameras are there, that helps prevent crime,” Markham said. “And if something does happens, it definitely helps us solve it.”