Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday gave out more than $5 million in grants to 50 entrepreneurs, aiming to promote business growth on the city’s South and West sides.
The grants are part of the mayor’s $16 million “Retail Thrive Zone” initiative, which uses tax-increment financing surpluses to support long-neglected commercial corridors in eight neighborhoods on the South and West sides.
Grant money is meant to go toward capital improvements for business owners, including roof, plumbing and electrical repairs. Small businesses were eligible for up to $250,000 in grants, and 14 of Wednesday’s recipients could be eligible for up to $725,000 in support including redevelopment tax incentives, according to a statement from the mayor’s office.
The city is also offering business mentoring and networking opportunities, as well as new “pop-up retail spaces” that will let entrepreneurs test concepts without having to make take on heavy capital costs.
The mayor’s office says the initiative will create more than 650 new jobs and 1,500 temporary construction jobs.
Among the eight designated neighborhood retail corridors are Austin, Back of the Yards, Bronzeville, Chatham, Englewood, West Humboldt Park and West Pullman. The grant application process for South Shore will open later this summer.
An additional $7 million from the city is slated to help fix up dilapidated buildings in the retail corridors. About 100 infrastructure upgrades have been made, and more are scheduled for this summer.
Emanuel secured a $15.6 million windfall for his “neighborhood opportunity fund” earlier this year when developers agreed to make a hefty contribution in exchange for the right to double the square footage at a 51-story office tower at 110 N. Wacker.
“Local businesses are economic and cultural hubs that create jobs and amenities in our neighborhoods and the entire city of Chicago,” Emanuel said in a statement.
The next application round for Retail Thrive Zone funding will launch in the fall.