“More than 75 percent of the finalists are Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) businesses, with more than half located in commercial corridors targeted by Mayor Lightfoot’s Invest South/West community revitalization initiative,” the city said in a release. Of the finalists, 18 are food-related, four are retail businesses, four provide services and one is a cultural entity.
The program, created in 2016 during Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration, is funded with fees paid by certain downtown construction projects. More than 200 awardees have been chosen since 2016, according to the city’s NOF website. The grant money helps pay for the construction or rehabilitation of real estate and supports new or expanding businesses or cultural assets.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot tweaked the program in the fall of 2019, which included allowing up to 100 percent of a project’s cost to be covered by NOF grants, and expanded help for grantees navigating construction management, lending and architecture. Twenty-seven projects have been completed so far, according to the city’s website.
“What the city is bringing, fundamentally, is access to capital on a building-by-building, block-by-block basis,” Chicago Planning Commissioner Maurice Cox said at a press conference outside the DuSable Museum of African American History Monday afternoon, pledging the city will work with awardees ”every step of the way toward successful opening” in the months ahead.
“At the core of initiatives like the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund and Invest South/West are our city’s values of equity and inclusion,” Lightfoot said at today’s press conference. While the city is “well poised for our economic recovery,” she said, “we can’t truly recover if we leave anyone behind, and we can’t afford to leave behind businesses and neighborhoods that have been traditionally underserved and underinvested in.”