New York, N.Y. – Today, Hope Knight, Chief Operating Officer of the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone Development Corp. (UMEZ) joined with Council Member Inez E. Dickens to congratulate Robert Payton, Jr., owner of Watkins Health Foods as the first recipient of a loan under UMEZ’s 125th Street Pilot Retail Incentive Program

Recognizing the impact of the re-zoning on 125th Street’s unique business landscape, UMEZ worked with its funding partners and Council Member Dickens to create an incentive program that would assist businesses seeking to expand or relocate to or on portions 125th Street or certain Avenues perpendicular to portions of 125th Street.  The program also assists businesses that are seeking to take advantage of the re-zoning of the 125th Street Commercial Corridor.  The program was announced last August.

 The incentives under this pilot program are offered on a “first come and as funds permit basis” to any eligible small businesses seeking to participate in the program.  All incentives will be structured as loans, with incremental forgiveness over a two year period, providing all program requirements are met by the participating business.  AREA Property Partners is supplementing the program by providing matching grants in amounts up to $50,000.

 Council Member Dickens, said, “"The Watkins family business is a staple of our community.  I have fought to keep those businesses like the Watkins Health Foods, who have dedicated their blood, sweat and tears and stayed through good times and bad times- right here in Harlem.  Generations of Harlem families have shopped Watkins and it gives me great pleasure to be able to help Watkins be here for generations to come.  I intend to work with UMEZ to continue this program and help eligible businesses benefit from this innovative loan fund.”

 “A great deal of effort and financial commitment has been made to ensure that assistance will be available to our existing local businesses,” said Ms. Knight. “Our overall goal is to help ensure that these businesses not only remain open, but also prosper as we move forward in the coming years.”

“We are pleased to be able to supplement the UMEZ efforts to assist local businesses, especially in the current economic climate,” said James Simmons, AREA partner.  “Business owners can access significant capital to help them continue to serve the community.”

 Mr. Payton, whose business has been in operation since 1951, said, “Given the difficult economic conditions of our nation, I’m grateful that this type of assistance is available to me and my fellow businessowners, so that we can continue to work towards achieving our American Dream.”

 This program along with other programs and services offered by New York City’s Department of Small Business Services through its 125th Street Business Solutions Center, the Harlem Business Alliance, the 125th Business Improvement District and other local business service organizations seeks to address all local business concerns and issues. 

For more information about the 125th Street Pilot Retail Incentive Program visit UMEZ’s website at www.umez.org.


 UMEZ was one of nine federally designated urban zones in 1994, and seeks to revitalize economically deprived communities by using public funds and tax incentives as catalysts for private investment.  UMEZ’s mission is to sustain the economic and cultural revitalization of all communities of Upper Manhattan through corporate alliances; strategic investments in businesses, as well as cultural institutions, organizations and individuals; and job creation.

About AREA Property Partners

 AREA Property Partners, formerly known as Apollo Real Estate Advisors, is a leading international real estate investor and fund manager on behalf of prominent government and corporate pension funds, sovereign wealth funds, insurance companies, foundations, endowments, and high net worth individuals.  Since the firm’s founding in 1993, AREA Property Partners has overseen the establishment of multiple real estate funds and joint ventures totaling $11.6 billion in equity commitments for investment in the United States and globally.  Its funds have collectively invested in over 450 transactions with an aggregated value in excess of $40 billion.  The firm has offices in New York City, Chicago, London, Los Angeles, Luxembourg and Mumbai.



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