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Downtown Raleigh Alliance offers this grant program to incentivize and attract new retail, restaurant, and service businesses, aid in the expansion of existing retail businesses, direct support to strategic areas, accommodate pop-up uses that may convert to long-term tenants, better support minority and women-owned businesses, and ultimately drive a healthy and strong storefront economy in Downtown Raleigh.

The program is specifically intended to help new storefront businesses and expanding retail businesses with upfit and one-time standup expenses. 

This funding opportunity offers reimbursement grants of up to $15,000, depending on location and business use. To support equitable growth for all in the downtown area, a Diverse Business Booster (DBE) of $2,500 is available for businesses with 50%-or-more ownership by individuals who identify as:

  • Minority
  • Women
  • LGBTQ+
  • Veteran
  • A person with a disability

Grant applications will be processed by DRA staff upon receipt and reviewed for approval by DRA staff and an external review committee on at least a quarterly basis. Application submission deadlines and tentative committee review calendar are listed below. Final approval and grant agreement will be issued by DRA staff.

Now accepting applications for funding review. Interest Forms may be submitted by qualifying candidates on a rolling basis. Please see program guidelines below. 

Submit Interest Form

Program Objectives:

  • Attract new businesses that provide needed/desired services or products within downtown to address demand of residents, employees and visitors, as well as increase foot traffic and create a viable commercial core.
  • Stimulate private investment in retail within downtown through property improvement, business development or expansion.
  • Contribute to the overall value of downtown by encouraging more retail, restaurant, and service businesses, which makes downtown a more vibrant, sustainable, livable place and adds value to other businesses and investments in downtown.
  • Provide additional resources, access, opportunities, and pathways to entrepreneurship for Minority- and Women-owned businesses (MWBE).
  • Direct additional attention and assistance to areas of downtown in need of more targeted, storefront-level, economic development support.

Program Details:

Grant funding provides financial assistance for build-outs, improvements, and renovations of storefront spaces and stand-up expenses associated with starting or expanding a storefront business in downtown.

The funding opportunity is geographically tied to business type, and competitiveness of application. Businesses with 50%-or-more ownership that self-identify as a Diverse Business Enterprise (DBE) qualify for additional funding. With maximum funding available per eligible business of up to $15,000. A 50:50 funding match is required for reimbursement amounts over $7,500.

DBE Booster:

  • Businesses with 50%-or-more ownership by individuals who identify as a minority, female, LGBTQ+, veteran, or a person with a disability may apply for an additional $2,500 in funding.

Eligibility Areas (Please refer to map):

Priority Area (Green):

  • New retail, restaurant, service and pop-up uses
  • Funding eligibility is up to $15,000 (including DBE booster of $2,500 if eligible)

Overall Grant Eligibility Area (Blue):

  • Retail uses including existing retail businesses expanding by 30% or more
  • Funding eligibility is up to $7,500 (including DBE booster of $2,500 if eligible)

Eligibility Requirements:

  • A business license is required.
  • Eligible business uses include but are not limited to new retail, restaurant, experiential, and service uses.
  • Existing retail businesses expanding by 30% or more are also eligible. (Existing restaurant and service businesses are not eligible unless relocating to new location which is within the eligibility area).
  • For pop-up businesses, a minimum three-month lease commitment is required.
  • The proposed location must be storefront space inside or on the boundary of the map depicted above.
    • Storefront spaces on the “out-of-bounds” side of the streets that are used as boundary lines will be considered eligible. A storefront space being “on” a boundary street will be determined by the location of the primary customer entrance to the space from the street.
    • Retail uses are eligible within the entire grant boundary area.
    • Restaurant and service uses are limited in grant eligibility to be within the smaller targeted area.
    • Pop-up concepts (as defined by an intended duration or lease commitment of less than one year) are only eligible in the priority area boundary.
  • Professional office and bar uses are explicitly ineligible (bar being defined as a business concept where 70% or more of projected or actual revenue is derived from onsite alcohol sales and consumption).
    • Brewery and distillery concepts with onsite production are excepted from the 70% definition and are explicitly eligible.
  • Creative concepts that add new products or services to downtown are encouraged.
  • Final eligibility determination is subject to DRA staff review.

Note: Individuals who have an immediate family member on the DRA Board of Directors or an immediate connection to an entity represented by a DRA Board Member are ineligible to receive funds via this grant program.

Eligible Expenses:

  • Hard costs to physically upfit space
  • Soft costs associated with design, construction and execution
  • One-time standup expenses*
    • *Eligible standup expenses must directly relate to the business concept or be an essential expense of the business model. Consideration and approval is at the discretion of DRA staff and the review committee.
  • Regular operating costs and recurring expenses are ineligible

Examples of eligible standup expenses:

  • Furniture
  • Shelving
  • Signage
  • POS system
  • Paint
  • Lighting
  • Decor
  • Displays
  • Etc.

Examples of ineligible expenses: 

  • Rent
  • Utilities
  • Payroll
  • Packaging
  • Regular cleaning supplies
  • Office supplies
  • Subscription fees
  • Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) expenses
  • Inventory
  • Etc.


  • Locally-owned and independently-operated businesses will be given funding priority
  • Preference given to those new businesses occupying first-floor space with a street-front presence which complement the downtown storefront mix and help strengthen existing retail clusters
  • The ratio of grant funding applied for to overall project cost will be considered as a measure of relative competitiveness in funding rounds, i.e. the level of matching private investment being proposed relative to the level of the grant request.
  • Thoroughness of business plan and description of planned upfit expenses and standup expenses

Available Funding

The total pool of Storefront Upfit Grant funds that may be awarded in FY24 (July 2023 through June 2024) is $90,000.

Timeline of Process:

Introduction and Pre-Application Review 

  1. Interest submittal: Interested prospects should fill out the short interest form linked below. DRA staff will promptly follow up for more information and to schedule a “pre-application review” meeting as appropriate.
  2. Pre-application review: A preliminary meeting with DRA to discuss the grant, application process, and provide guidance to the applicant.
  3. Concept refinement: As applicable, prospects should refine concept based on feedback from DRA staff and begin to assemble the documents listed under Application Submission Requirements for application submittal. If a location has yet to be identified or committed, work with DRA staff to connect with potential landlords and explore lease opportunities.

Application Submission, Decision, and Next Steps

  1. Application submittal: Prospects should submit the application linked below. Applicants must also submit additional components listed under Phase Two Submission Requirements including business plan, costs, timeline, a copy of their current lease, etc. DRA staff and an external review committee will review all materials and may contact prospects with questions.
  2. Decision: DRA staff will make the final determination on approval or denial of the grant.
  3. Grant agreement: Approved applicants will be required to execute a Grant Agreement in which the grantor agrees to pay for the authorized work and grantee agrees to complete the work in accordance with the approved application.
  4. Issuance of reimbursement: After installation and completion of the project improvements agreed upon, the grantee submits all invoices to the grantor. After the grantor determines that the invoices are correct, the work has been completed, and all other grant requirements have been submitted or met the reimbursement will be issued. (Other grant requirements include an onsite visit by DRA staff once work is completed, submission of three (3) high quality images of the completed space, and submission of a quote from the grantee about the upfit and the impact of the grant for their business. Images and grantee quotes are for use in a press release and communications about the grant.)

Pre-Application Submission Requirements:

Prospects are encouraged to submit interest early in development of their concept. DRA maintains a list of available storefront space within Downtown Raleigh and is able to introduce or matchmake prospects with potential landlords and locations to explore lease opportunities.

Application Submission Requirements:

  • Completed application
  • Business plan for the business venture
    • Concept description and target market
    • Funding description for the venture and cash flow pro forma
    • Proposed timeline for upfit and projected opening date
  • Copy of current lease agreement 
  • Detailed description and cost sheet for upfit and stand-up costs 
  • Proof of funds for completion of upfit and stand-up costs
  • Floor plan/layout of physical space
  • Photographs of existing conditions 
  • (If applicable) Written consent from the property owner giving permission to conduct improvements/alterations to the site
  • (If applicable) Detailed proposal from a licensed contractor 

Note: DRA reserves the right to waive submission requirements if mitigating factors or site conditions warrant special consideration. 

Reimbursement Process:

This is a reimbursement grant. The Grantee is responsible for paying for the expenses up front. Awarded grant funds are disbursed to the Grantee within one month of completing the reimbursement requirements. Dispersal of grant funds will be in the form of a check from DRA. 

Reimbursement Requirements:

  • The Grantee must sign and submit the required forms and the business’ Form W-9.
  • The full scope of the proposal and all projects related to the proposal must be complete.
  • All payments must be made and expenses submitted simultaneously to DRA for review and approval.
  • The Grantee must be open for business.
  • DRA staff must visit the business to tour the space and confirm that invoices and receipts match the work completed.
  • The Grantee must submit “after” photos of the business and the work that has been done. These photos may be used for a press release and for social media to promote the business and the grant program.
  • The Grantee must submit a statement describing the business and a statement describing the impact of the grant program for the business. These statements may be used for a press release and for social media to promote the business and the grant program.

*Tentatively Planned* Upcoming application Submission Deadlines for Committee Review 

  • Submit application and supporting documents by June 1st, 2023 to be considered for committee review in mid-June.
  • Submit application and supporting documents by November 1st, 2023 to be considered for committee review in mid-November.
  • Submit application and supporting documents by March 15th, 2024 to be considered for committee review in late-March.

Interest Form and Application


  • Phase One: Submit an Interest Form (HERE or the button above)
    • DRA staff will evaluate Form submissions and send an application to eligible businesses
  • Phase Two: Submit a completed application to

Contact Information

For more information or questions about applying for this program, contact:

Previous Grant Recipients