Request for Proposals: Storefront Upfit Grant Program

Request for Proposals: Storefront Upfit Grant Program

Downtown Raleigh Alliance offers this grant program to incentivize and attract new retail, restaurant, and service businesses, aid in the expansion of existing retail businesses, direct support to strategic areas, accommodate pop-up uses that may convert to long-term tenants, better support minority and women-owned businesses, and ultimately drive a healthy and strong storefront economy in Downtown Raleigh.

The program is specifically intended to help new storefront businesses and expanding retail businesses with upfit and one-time standup expenses.

This funding opportunity offers reimbursement grants of up to $15,000, depending on location and business use. To support equitable growth for all in the downtown area, a Diverse Business Booster (DBE) of $2,500 is available for businesses with 50%-or-more ownership by individuals who identify as:

  • Minority

  • Female

  • LGBTQ+

  • Veteran

  • A person with a disability

    Grant applications will be processed by DRA staff upon receipt and reviewed for approval by DRA staff and an external review committee on at least a quarterly basis. Application submission deadlines and tentative committee review calendar are listed below. Final approval and grant agreement will be issued by DRA staff.

    Program Objectives:

  • Attract new businesses that provide needed/desired services or products within downtown to address demand of residents, employees and visitors, as well as increase foot traffic and create a viable commercial core.

  • Stimulate private investment in retail within downtown through property improvement, business development or expansion.

  • Contribute to the overall value of downtown by encouraging more retail, restaurant, and service businesses, which makes downtown a more vibrant, sustainable, livable place and adds value to other businesses and investments in downtown.

  • Provide additional resources, access, opportunities, and pathways to entrepreneurship for Minority- and Women-owned businesses (MWBE).

  • Direct additional attention and assistance to areas of downtown in need of more targeted, storefront-level, economic development support.

    Program Details:

  • Grant funding provides financial assistance for build-outs, improvements, and renovations of storefront spaces and stand-up expenses associated with starting or expanding a storefront business in downtown.

  • The funding opportunity is geographically tied to business type, and competitiveness of application. Businesses with 50%-or-more ownership that self-identify as a Diverse Business Enterprise (DBE) qualify for additional funding. With maximum funding available per eligible business of up to $15,000. A 50:50 funding match is required for reimbursement amounts over $7,500.

    DBE Booster:

    Businesses with 50%-or-more ownership by individuals who identify as a minority, female, LGBTQ+, veteran, or a person with a disability may apply for an additional $2,500 in funding.

    Eligibility Areas (Please refer to map):

    Priority Area (Green):

    New retail, restaurant, service and pop-up uses
    Funding eligibility is up to $15,000 (including DBE booster of $2,500 if eligible)
    Overall Grant Eligibility Area (Blue):

    Retail uses including existing retail businesses expanding by 30% or more
    Funding eligibility is up to $7,500 (including DBE booster of $2,500 if eligible)

    Eligibility Requirements:

  • A business license is required.

  • Eligible business uses include but are not limited to new retail, restaurant, experiential, and service uses.

  • Existing retail businesses expanding by 30% or more are also eligible. (Existing restaurant and service businesses are not eligible unless relocating to new location which is within the eligibility area).

  • For
    pop-up businesses, a minimum three-month lease commitment is required.

  • The proposed location must be storefront space inside or on the boundary of the map depicted above.

  • Storefront spaces on the “out-of-bounds” side of the streets that are used as boundary lines will be considered eligible. A storefront space being “on” a boundary street will be determined by the location of the primary customer entrance to the space from the street.

  • Retail uses are eligible within the entire grant boundary area.

  • Restaurant and service uses are limited in grant eligibility to be within the smaller targeted area.

  • Pop-up concepts (as defined by an intended duration or lease commitment of less than one year) are only eligible in the priority area boundary.

  • Professional office and bar uses are explicitly ineligible (bar being defined as a business concept where 70% or more of projected or actual revenue is derived from onsite alcohol sales and consumption).

  • Brewery and distillery concepts with onsite production are excepted from the 70% definition and are explicitly eligible.

  • Creative concepts that add new products or services to downtown are encouraged.

  • Final eligibility determination is subject to DRA staff review.

    Note: Individuals who have an immediate family member on the DRA Board of Directors or an immediate connection to an entity represented by a DRA Board Member are ineligible to receive funds via this grant program.

    Eligible Expenses:

  • Hard costs to physically upfit space

  • Soft costs associated with design, construction and execution

  • One-time standup expenses*

  • *Eligible standup expenses must directly relate to the business concept or be an essential expense of the business model. Consideration and approval is at the discretion of DRA staff and the review committee.

  • Regular operating costs and recurring expenses are ineligible

    Examples of Eligible Standup Expenses:

  • Furniture

  • Shelving

  • Signage

  • POS system

  • Paint

  • Lighting

  • Decor

  • Displays

    Examples of Ineligible Expenses:

  • Rent

  • Utilities

  • Payroll

  • Packaging

  • Regular cleaning supplies

  • Office supplies

  • Subscription fees

  • Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) expenses

  • Inventory


    Locally-owned and independently-operated businesses will be given funding priority
    Preference given to those new businesses occupying first-floor space with a street-front presence which complement the downtown storefront mix and help strengthen existing retail clusters

    The ratio of grant funding applied for to overall project cost will be considered as a measure of relative competitiveness in funding rounds, i.e. the level of matching private investment being proposed relative to the level of the grant request.

    Thoroughness of business plan and description of planned upfit expenses and standup expenses

    Available Funding

    The total pool of Storefront Upfit Grant funds that may be awarded in FY24 (July 2023 through June 2024) is $90,000.

    How to Apply

    For more information and job application details, see; Request for Proposals: Storefront Upfit Grant Program

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