Neighborhood Businesses Looking To Expand Downtown Could Get $50,000 Boost If They Open On LaSalle Street

DOWNTOWN — A program that provides subsidies to small businesses looking to revitalize the LaSalle Street corridor passed a significant hurdle last week.

The program will use $5 million in tax-raised funds to activate small business improvement funds in storefronts along the LaSalle Street corridor of the Loop.

Grants of up to $250,000 are available for building owners or tenants to permanently refurbish ground-level retail spaces. Applicants expanding from low- and middle-income areas into the corridor will be offered an additional $50,000 of her. The limit is set at $1,000,000 per property.

A total of $5 million will be available, according to city documents.

The expansion was approved by the city council’s finance committee on Thursday and is awaiting votes from all 50 city council members.

The proposal is being marketed as a great opportunity for local businesses, but one South Side Chamber of Commerce leader fears the increased economic benefits could pull stores away from lower-income districts. ing.

The Small Business Improvement Fund’s downtown addition is part of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s initiative to transform LaSalle Street into a vibrant street. Part of that includes incentives for developers to convert underutilized office buildings into apartments and condominiums.

credit: city ​​of chicago
A map of the boundaries of the LaSalle Street Small Business Improvement Fund.

If approved, it would be the first small business improvement fund created for downtown, according to Cindy Roubik, deputy chairman of the city’s Office of Planning and Development.

“This tool has worked very well in other district commercial corridors. We felt it was important to see if we could promote

The LaSalle Street Improvement Fund is a little different than other small business improvement funds in the city.

The LaSalle Street Improvement Fund maximum grant is higher than other programs, with 90% of all costs reimbursed. Grants in other regions are capped at $150,000 per applicant, with reimbursements varying between 30% and 90%.

credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
LaSalle Street Bridge.

There are also no earnings limits for small businesses and building owners who apply for grants through the LaSalle Street Program. The original Small Business Improvement Fund says a business must have total revenue less than his $9 million to apply.

Earnings limits for the LaSalle Street Program will be removed, except for franchises, chains, bars and taverns.

Lettuce Entertain You, the hospitality group that owns many of Chicago’s restaurants, is not eligible for the improvement fund, officials with the Department of Planning and Development said. But retired Aldo-owned Swedish breakfast spot Ann Suther. Tom Tunney (44th) hypothetically will, according to officials.

Building owners will also need to line up tenants for retail spaces they plan to renovate, according to city documents.

Many small businesses and restaurants have closed permanently due to the pandemic, staff shortages and declining sales, but Rubik hopes the grant will give small businesses the jump start they need to succeed downtown. I’m here.

“We know there are struggling small businesses across cities and across the country that are still recovering from the effects of the pandemic. I think it will be a problem.”

When the grants are awarded sometime next year, business owners should already know which housing conversions are underway, bringing hundreds of new residents and potential customers downtown.

credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Streetlights along Lasalle Street on December 14, 2022.

The proposal has received mixed reactions from business leaders in other districts.

While South Shore Chamber of Commerce leaders feel the program presents a great opportunity for brand expansion, officials at the Greater Inglewood Chamber of Commerce say the opportunity could pull important small businesses away from the community. I am concerned that there is.

South Shore and Inglewood businesses wishing to open downtown are eligible to receive an additional $50,000 to do so.

Tonya Trice, executive director of the South Shore Chamber, believes the $300,000 will be a boon to local businesses looking to expand.

“There are a lot of great businesses on the South Side of Chicago, but they may not have the brand recognition they deserve because they cannot expand into those markets. I think,” said Trice. “Both store fronts and properties are in better condition than on the south side. So I think businesses have an opportunity to see their money go further.”

Felicia Slaton-Young, executive director of Englewood’s Chamber of Commerce, said she supports the expansion and growth of local businesses, but wonders why additional incentives are offered downtown.

“I have mixed feelings about it. Why can’t this program allow small businesses to access this funding to create much-needed space in communities where they already do business?” Slaton Young said

Slaton-Young also worries about the sustainability of businesses moving downtown.

“At the end of the day, most of this money goes to renovating or refurbishing existing spaces. What does it look like? How much does it cost to rent per square foot?

If approved by the City Council, the Department of Planning and Development will work with neighborhood business leaders to identify potential applicants.

Roubik has multiple applications, with the first round expected to begin next year.

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