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Downtown Raleigh Alliance offers this Storefront Upfit 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 businesses with upfit and one-time standup expenses.

This funding opportunity offers reimbursement grants at tiers of up to $7,500, $5,000, and $2,500. Businesses that are 50% or more minority-or-woman-owned may apply for an additional $2,500 in funding. The maximum funding available per eligible business is $10,000.

The total pool of available Storefront Upfit Grant funds that may be awarded in FY22 (June 2021 through July 2022) is $50,000. 

The committee will review applications on a quarterly basis. The next application deadline is August 15th, 2021. See below for more information on the application submission deadlines for committee review. 

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.

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.
  • 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 renovations, improvements, and build-outs of existing spaces and stand-up expenses associated with starting or expanding a business in downtown.

The funding opportunity is tiered based on business type, location of business, and competitiveness of application. Businesses that are 50% or more minority-owned and/or women-owned qualify for additional funding. The maximum funding available per eligible business is $10,000.

  • MWBE Booster
    • Businesses that are 50% or more minority-owned or women-owned may apply for an additional $2,500 in funding on top of the below limits.
  • Tier One: Retail
    • For new retail businesses or existing retail businesses looking to expand by 30% or more, funding eligibility is at Tier One, or up to $7,500.
  • Tier Two: Restaurant or Service
    • For restaurant or service businesses located within the eligible zone (see map), funding eligibility is at Tier Two, or up to $5,000.
  • Tier Three: Pop-Up
    • For a pop-up business with a lease term of three (3) months to one (1) year, funding eligibility is at Tier Three, or up to $2,500.

Eligibility

  • A business license is required.
  • Eligible business uses include but are not limited to retail, restaurant, experiential, and service. (For purposes of eligibility, experiential will be considered a subset of service).
  • 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 (zoomable version of the map, here).
    • Storefront spaces on boundary streets will be considered eligible irrespective of the side of the street that the space is on. 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 eligible in the entire grant boundary. However, restaurant and service pop-ups are only eligible within the targeted area for restaurant and service uses.
  • 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.

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.

Competitiveness

  • Locally-owned and independently-owned businesses will be given funding priority.
  • 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 will be considered as a measure of competitiveness.

Available Funding

The total pool of available Storefront Upfit Grant funds that may be awarded in FY22 (June 2021 through July 2022) is $50,000. That amount equates to a capacity of available funding to award at least five (5) grants in FY22 at the maximum funding possible. However, due to available tier options at lower funding levels it is anticipated that there will be capacity to fund more than five (5) grants in FY22. At this time, the remaining available funding in this grant program for FY22 is $50,000.

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 Application Submission Requirements including business plan, costs, timeline, 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 quote are for use in a press release and communications about the grant.)

Submission Requirements

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.

  • Completed interest form (HERE)

Application Submission Requirements

  • Completed application linked below
  • 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
  • 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. Any changes to the project must be approved by DRA in order to qualify for reimbursement. Once the grant is approved, the grantee has six (6) months to begin upfit/standup and one (1) year to complete and open for business (*for pop-up uses the grantee has three (3) and six (6) months to start and complete upfit/standup respectively). If one or both of these criteria are not met, then the grantee will be notified in writing that the grant is terminated. Grantees can request an extension if nearing the lapse points.

Reimbursement Requirements

  • The Grantee must sign and submit the required forms including the IRS W-9 form.
  • 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 three (3) high quality images of the completed space. 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, the upfit, and the impact of the grant program for the business. The statement may be used for a press release and for social media to promote the business and the grant program.

*Tentatively Planned* Application Submission Deadlines for Committee Review (FY22: July 2021 - June 2022)

  • Submit application and supporting documents by August 15th, 2021 to be considered for committee review in late-August.
  • Submit application and supporting documents by October 15th, 2021 to be considered for committee review in late-October.
  • Submit application and supporting documents by January 1st, 2022 to be considered for committee review in mid-January.
  • Submit application and supporting documents by April 1st, 2022 to be considered for committee review in mid-April.

Interest Form and Application

Contact Information

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

Roxanne Lundy
Storefront Manager
RoxanneLundy@downtownraleigh.org
919.821.6977