A £1m injection of cash to upgrade businesses in Blackpool town centre is starting to show results.
The first premises to benefit from grants handed out by the council are being unveiled after the project was launched in February last year.
The Property Improvement Fund was set up to help businesses in streets in need of investment.
Among the first to benefit is the Continental Cafe on Topping Street whose property has been transformed with a new shopfront and awning.
And owners Robert Pilling and James Caddell say the investment is already paying off with an upturn in trade.
Robert, who bought the cafe in 2001, said: “We are definitely benefiting from taking part in this scheme. We’re a lot busier than this time last year – takings are up and I don’t think that’s just a coincidence.
“At first we weren’t sure about the colour of the new shopfront but once the work had been completed, we realised that we couldn’t have chosen anything better.
“It’s very eye-catching and really stands out on the street. I think that a lot of people think it is a new café.
“The grant has come at a really good time. I did want to update the shopfront but it’s finding the money to do it that is the struggle.
“When we received the letter from the council telling us about the scheme, at first it seemed too good to be true. I couldn’t believe it.
“The council have been really helpful and responsive throughout the project. I’m really glad that we have made the most of this opportunity.”
The Mortgage Shop on Topping Street is among other properties to have had a facelift, while work on other properties is also underway and others are still at the planning application stage.
Coun Gillian Campbell, deputy leader of Blackpool Council, said: “These before and after pictures are fantastic. It is great to see the difference the Property Improvement Fund has already made.
“As more properties are improved the whole look of the streets will start to change. This can only be good for local businesses.
“We have received lots of positive comments from local residents who I hope will go to see the changes for themselves and support local traders.
“There are also some larger projects currently going through the approval process that I am keen to see come to fruition as soon as possible.”
Only businesses on certain streets were eligible to apply for a share of the funding which is aimed at making parts of the town centre more attractive to shoppers, residents and investors.
Work can include structural improvements, brick work, stone work, roofing, guttering, rendering and replacement doors.
Streets included in the scheme are Deansgate, Edward Street, Topping Street, Talbot Road (between the Promenade and Dickson Road) and Church Street (between Cookson Street and St John’s Square).
Businesses were first invited to apply for funds last year.
Contractors have included Blackpool company Singleton and Smart which has manufactured hardwood shopfronts and windows in its workshop.
The scheme is funded by Blackpool Council and the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership (LEP). through the Growth Deal Fund, with the council putting in around £100,000.
Grants are available for up to 95 per cent of the total cost of the works and the project is due to run until March next year.
It is part of a programme of a wider programme of work which includes improving roads leading into the town centre as part of the quality corridors project, and extending the tramway up Talbot Road to North Station.
Nine projects are already completed or the works are under way.
13 are going through the approval/ planning process
There are a number of others at the application stage.