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 twice a year during the open application window.
|Start date||End date|
|Round 1||February 27, 2017||April 21, 2017|
|Round 2||August 2, 2017||October 2, 2017|
Any qualifying applications that are not funded will automatically be submitted for the following application round.
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 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 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.
The minimum total project costs are $30,000, with a grant minimum of $15,000.
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.
Applicants that have previously defaulted (after cure periods have passed) on any City-funded projects in the preceding two years are not eligible to receive Neighborhood Opportunity Fund grant funds. Any Applicant in default on any City-funded project will not be eligible to receive Neighborhood Opportunity Fund grant funds until such default is cured.
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.
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.
Do you have any questions regarding a Neighborhood Opportunity Fund grant? Do you need assistance applying? We're here to help!