In 2016, Mayor Rahm Emanuel implemented reforms to the City’s Zoning Code in order to ensure that the growth of downtown drives equitable development throughout the City. These changes leverage new development in and around the Loop to generate funds that will catalyze investment on Chicago’s West, Southwest and South Sides.
The Neighborhood Opportunity Fund receives funds from that downtown development in order to support commercial corridors in Chicago’s underserved neighborhoods. Business and property owners may apply for grant funding that will pay for the development or rehabilitation of real estate and projects that support new or expanding businesses or cultural assets.
Grant applications are accepted during open application windows.
|Start date||End date|
|Round 1||February 27, 2017||April 21, 2017|
|Round 2||October 4, 2017||December 22, 2017|
|Round 3||To be announced||To be announced|
Eligible applicants must be business or property owners or entities that are engaged in the sale of commercial goods or services. Projects that provide cultural experiences to the general public are also eligible.
|Examples of Eligible Commercial Projects||Examples of Eligible Cultural Projects|
Applicants requesting less than $250,000 in assistance must be located in an Eligible Commercial Corridor, so that projects can be concentrated and have a bigger collective impact. Although not required, projects may also be located within a Priority Investment Corridor (where complementary businesses are located) and will receive extra weight during the review process. Larger projects (needing grants over $250,000) with a special neighborhood impact may be considered outside of the Eligible Commercial Corridors, but those projects must be approved by the City Council. We encourage you to contact us with questions about larger projects in advance, but the application is the same.
For all Neighborhood Opportunity Fund projects, costs that can be funded by grants must generally be related to new construction or the rehabilitation of existing buildings. This includes:
|Land acquisition and assembly|
|Building acquisition, demolition and environmental remediation|
|Roofing, façade repair and mechanical system repairs|
|Architectural and engineering fees|
|Financing fees (related to securing a loan or other capital)|
|Minor site improvements, such as fencing or planters, when a part of an eligible project|
|Other soft costs associated with eligible hard costs|
Projects that receive Neighborhood Opportunity Fund grants must have a catalytic impact on the neighborhood and lead to the development of new commercial spaces or cultural establishments. As a result, the following costs are not eligible for Neighborhood Opportunity Fund grants:
|Residential dwelling units or the residential portion of a mixed-use building|
|Minor repairs and improvements, such as painting|
|Repairs or improvements that are required to bring a building into compliance with the City of Chicago’s Building Code|
|Support programs or services|
|Travel expenses or any lodging/hotel expenses|
Additionally, any work that is begun before a conditional commitment letter is issued by the City of Chicago’s Department of Planning and Development is not eligible for grant funds. Neighborhood Opportunity Fund grants cannot be retroactively awarded for projects completed outside of the formal grant process.
The total amount of Neighborhood Opportunity Fund assistance available to your project depends, in large part, on where your project is located. Depending on that location, there are two types of grants available:
Projects that are located on an Eligible Commercial Corridor are eligible to apply for both grant types. Projects that are located outside of an Eligible Commercial Corridor are only eligible to receive grants larger than $250,000 in assistance.
In all cases, projects that undertake the construction of new buildings are eligible to receive up to 30% of the total project cost, while projects that rehabilitate existing buildings may receive up to 50% of the project’s total cost. Those percentages, however, are eligible to be increased by up to 15 percent if you qualify for the Build Community Wealth Bonus.
One of the critical goals of the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund program is to develop sustainable neighborhood growth by building community-based wealth. Supporting locally-based business and property owners will ensure these investments in our neighborhoods remain in our neighborhoods, helping to catalyze new businesses and new employment opportunities.
In order to support projects that advance that goal, the Build Community Wealth Bonus provides eligible projects with additional support. There are two ways an applicant can benefit from the Build Community Wealth Bonus:
It is important to note that applicants may apply for only Option One or Option Two above. In the event that you qualify for both, you’ll need to choose which provides the most benefit for your project.
Use the map below to see if your primary residence is eligible for the Build Community Wealth Bonus.
Applications will be prioritized using four key factors, all with the goal of providing catalytic impact to a community or commercial corridor:
The Department of Planning and Development will review all applications and submit them to an Advisory Committee made up of community leaders representing a cross-section of City neighborhoods. That Advisory Committee will then submit a funding recommendation to the City for final selection. The Advisory Committee’s current members are:
Projects receiving more than $250,000 in assistance will go through a Redevelopment Agreement process with the City’s Department of Planning and Development that requires approval by Chicago's City Council.
How do I know if my property is eligible for the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund program?
Applicants requesting grants up to $250,000 must be located on an Eligible Commercial Corridor or Priority Investment Corridor. Applicants requesting grants greater than $250,000 may be located outside of an Eligible Commercial Corridor or Priority Investment Corridor, but those projects must be approved by City Council.
You can use the map on the Apply page to determine if your property is located in one of these eligible areas.
What are Eligible Commercial Corridors and Priority Investment Corridors?
Eligible Commercial Corridors are public streets that generally allow for retail or commercial uses based on the underlying zoning.
Priority Investment Corridors have the same characteristics as an Eligible Commercial Corridor, but also have a greater amount of retail or commercial activity. This activity is based on higher concentration of active business licenses, high rates of vehicular traffic, high ridership bus routes, or is otherwise a significant existing or established commercial corridor.
Is my mixed-use property eligible for Neighborhood Opportunity Fund assistance?
Yes, but only for the commercial spaces. Any build-out or improvement of residential spaces is considered an ineligible project cost.
What if my property has building code violations?
You are still eligible to apply for a grant, but any repairs or improvements that are ordered by the Circuit Court to remedy documented citations of the City of Chicago’s Building Code are not eligible for Neighborhood Opportunity Fund assistance. Additionally, any funds used to remedy the Building Code violations may not be applied towards the total eligible project costs.
How long will the selection process take once the application window closes?
The selection process will take approximately two to three months from the application deadline.
Do you have any questions regarding a Neighborhood Opportunity Fund grant? Do you need assistance applying? We're here to help!