A popular grant program that helps beautify storefronts in our city may be expanding. Councillors want to include a niche group of businesses whose storefronts are actually in the back.

Tucked away between Whyte Avenue’s historic buildings, you’ll find an ice cream shop.

Made by Marcus is one of a few businesses in Old Strathcona without a traditional storefront, instead, it opens up to the back alley.

Marcus Purtzki owns the business, his landlord has beautified the space. The walls and walkway have been renewed, lighting and signage installed, all in an effort to attract customers.

“They’ve really made it a really cool alley for us,” Purtzki told CTV News Edmonton.

It’s a process many businesses have gone through in recent years thanks to the city’s facade improvement grant.

“We’ve seen our main streets really spruce up in response to this in recent years, it’s been a very, very successful program,” Mayor Don Iveson said.

Businesses can get up to $20,000 for indoor improvements, and up to $25,000 to spruce up the outside.

“It’s a cost partnership, so it’s depends on them putting some money on the table, and the city sweetens the deal to make sure they do something beautiful,” Iveson said.

But stores like Made by Marcus have been left out since they don’t have traditional facades.

Now councillors are looking to expand the grant program to include back alley businesses.

“This would bring a lot more commercial density I think that we need,” Purtzki said.

Even though a lot of work is already finished near his shop, Purtzki figures he could still use the grant money.

“Things like park benches and just better seating and better lighting back there, especially in the back alley.”

For now, the eligibility expansion is only for Old Strathcona. The mayor hopes it will inspire alley-facing businesses in other parts of the city.

“I can absolutely see this expanding to downtown, and some of the other districts very, very quickly,” Iveson said.

The final decision goes to council next week. 

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Jeremy Thompson.