Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell and the City of Seattle Office of Economic Development (OED) announced the investment of $1.9 million in Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Funding (CLFR) into the Commercial Tenant Improvement Fund to support small businesses impacted by COVID-19. Through an open application process, the Tenant Improvement Fund will grant eligible small businesses up to $100,000 to build out commercial spaces and make commercial improvements more affordable for projects located within Seattle city limits. The Tenant Improvement Fund will:
- Help businesses complete build out projects of existing or new commercial spaces,
- Give businesses access to expedited permitting services and consultant resources to assist with project needs such as space planning, assistance in talking with a landlord, assistance in selecting a general contractor, and managing the buildout process,
- Respond to an immediate need to fill empty storefronts within our city to support the economic recovery of Seattle, and
- Support wealth generation for business owners.
“Thriving small and local businesses are essential to our city’s recovery from the pandemic,” said Harrell. “This significant new investment in the Tenant Improvement Fund means a major boost for small and BIPOC-owned businesses, helping deliver an equitable economic recovery and supporting long-term revitalization and success. Small businesses are looking for tangible financial help and effective guidance from the City. This investment of time and money from our Office of Economic Development will help drive meaningful improvements so small businesses can continue enhancing the fabric of our communities and providing well-paying jobs for those who live in them.”
Tenant Improvement Fund grants will be awarded as a forgivable loan with 0% interest. The loan will convert to a grant after the business has continued operations for a one-year period following the completion of project construction. Small Business owners can use Tenant Improvement funding for both hard construction costs and non-construction soft costs such as architect fees, permit fees, etc., related to their projects. Funding will cover costs such as establishing or renovating outdoor seating, installing takeout windows, improving air filtration systems, expanding current commercial space, building out a new commercial space, and more.
Tenant Improvement Fund applications are due on September 8, 2022, at 5:00 p.m. via the online grant portal. Late applications will not be accepted. OED will host two information sessions to describe the intent of this funding opportunity and answer questions. The virtual sessions will be hosted on Webex and will be recorded.
Bilingual staff are available to answer questions and help applicants complete their applications in the following languages: Amharic, Chinese, Korean, Somali, Spanish, Thai and Vietnamese. Support in additional languages is available through our language line. To request translation or interpretation services, businesses can call (206) 684-8090 and note the following information in their voicemail: name, phone number, preferred language and the type of support needed.
“Commercial affordability exists on a continuum and requires the city to have different resources available that meet the unique needs of our businesses and entrepreneurs. For some businesses they need flexible working capital and are benefiting from our Capital Access program. For others, they need a foot in the door to affordable commercial real estate and are benefitting from our Seattle Restored program. And for other businesses, they need capital and technical assistance to renovate and build out new and existing commercial spaces to support the goals for their business—and that is what the Tenant Improvement Fund will do,” said Markham McIntyre, Interim Director of the Seattle Office of Economic Development.
Eligibility requirements for the Tenant Improvement include:
- Be a for-profit business that is independently owned, non-franchise and non-chain business located within the Seattle city limits.
- Have no more than 50 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees.
- Have an annual gross revenue of no more than $2 million.
- Have experienced direct economic disruption because of COVID-19.
- Began operating business prior to 2019. If project is a startup, applicant must have prior business experience or industry experience.
- Submit a letter of support for proposed project written by a local neighborhood business district organization, fellow small business owner, or nonprofit organization located in the neighborhood where your desired project is or will be located.
- Have an active City of Seattle Business License and filed City Business and Occupation (B&O) taxes. Businesses must pay taxes in full if owed or comply within two months of selection.
Selection of awardees and grant amounts will be prioritized by the following criteria:
- Viability: Business sustainability such as historic sales or annual gross sales, and business experience. For startup projects, applicant must have past business or industry experience.
- Project readiness: Status of physical space, project description, budget detail and commitment of other funding sources.
- Equity: Projects serving high COVID-impacted and high displacement risk neighborhoods and/or projects focusing support for BIPOC, women owned businesses.
- Impact: Projects or business owners providing social and/or public benefits that show positive impact in the community. Projects that would support small businesses from being displaced or support the relocation of businesses that were displaced.
OED, in partnership with a community advisory group and the National Development Council (NDC), will review and rate applications for selection. All projects that are selected for funding will be announced in October 2022.
Since the launching of the Tenant Improvement Fund pilot in 2019, OED has awarded funding to local businesses such as Earl’s Cuts and Styles, Phnom Penh, Musang, Communion, A4 Apple Learning Center, Jackson’s Catfish Corner, and Simply Soulful. Prior to the pandemic, Seattle small business owners—particularly Black, Indigenous and other business owners of color— faced ongoing systemic barriers to capital, gentrification and displacement, and inequitable public policy that impacted their ability to access and secure affordable commercial space. As the city works to help activate vacant commercial properties, caused in part by the pandemic and the rise in commercial rents, the Tenant Improvement fund responds to these commercial affordability challenges by providing financial and technical assistance resources to small businesses to renovate and build out new and existing commercial spaces to help their business stabilize, grow and thrive.
“We are extremely grateful that we were able to get the help from OED to buy our equipment! The investment in our business helped us not go into debt to open our new location and set us up for success,” said Lillian Rambus, co-owner of Simply Soulful. “Thank you for investing in a Black, women owned business!”