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$5 Million Boost For Small Businesses To Expand On LaSalle Street Approved By City Council

Small businesses would be eligible for up to $300,000 to make permanent updates to ground-level retail storefronts.

LaSalle Street in the Loop on Jan. 18, 2023.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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THE LOOP — A program that would give grants to small businesses looking to revitalize the LaSalle Street corridor passed City Council Wednesday.

The program directs $5 million in tax-increment finance dollars to launch a Small Business Improvement Fund for storefronts along the LaSalle Street corridor in the Loop.

Grants of up to $250,000 will be available for building owners or tenants to make permanent renovations on ground-level retail space. An extra $50,000 is available for applicants expanding to LaSalle from low- and medium-income neighborhoods. The maximum grant would be $1 million per property.

A total of $5 million would be up for grabs, according to city documents. The program received initial approval from the council’s finance committee last week.

The addition of the Small Business Improvement Fund to Downtown is part of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s initiative to turn LaSalle Street into a vibrant strip. Part of that includes incentives for developers to convert underused office buildings into apartments and condos.

Proposals for residential conversions were completed in December.

The LaSalle Street improvement fund is slightly different than other Small Business Improvement Funds across the city.

The maximum grant for the LaSalle Street improvement fund is higher than in other programs and will reimburse 90 percent of all expenses. Grants in other neighborhoods are capped at $150,000 per applicant and reimbursements vary between 30 to 90 percent.

There will also be no revenue limits for the small businesses or building owners applying for grants through the LaSalle Street program. In other programs, businesses must make less than $9 million in gross revenue in order to apply.

Although the revenue limit would be removed for the LaSalle Street program, franchises, chain businesses, bars and taverns still are not be eligible.

Officials with the Department of Planning and Development previously told Block Club that it plans to have multiple rounds of applications with the first round opening in late 2023.

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