Chicago Recovery Grant FAQ

As part of the Chicago Recovery Plan, the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) is accepting applications for grant funding to support local commercial, mixed-use and light manufacturing development. See the below frequently asked questions (FAQ) for more information about the program. Additional answers will be posted to this page as DPD staff fields submitted questions; please check back periodically.

Timeline and Awards

What time does the initial application period close?
11:59 p.m. CT on Monday, Jan. 31, 2022.

When will I find out if I’m receiving an award? 
Initial awardees are expected to be notified this spring. 

How many awards will be made?
The total number of awards will depend on the applications received. 

How will grant amounts be calculated?
Each grant amount will be based on application strength, total project costs and requested amount.

Will those who apply before the Round 1 deadline have a better chance to receive funds?
No. The City intends to make awards for all three open applications rounds this year, and the round you apply for does not impact how likely you are to receive an award.

Grants will be awarded based on project readiness and community impact, so you should pick the application round that allows you to best demonstrate project readiness and submit the strongest possible application.

Examples of project readiness that would strengthen an application include having a signed letter of intent for purchase or lease of a space, having architectural designs, and having construction cost estimates based on designs.

Eligibility/Use of Funds

I am not a resident of Chicago. Can I still apply?
Yes, so long as the business is located in the city of Chicago, you may apply.

My business is located outside of Chicago. Is it eligible for funding?
No. The business must be located in the city of Chicago to be eligible for this program.

What types of businesses are eligible for this program?
Projects must be commercial, mixed-use or light industrial. Projects should add to the economic vitality of the surrounding neighborhood, benefit the community and meet a local need.

Are non-profit, social service and religious organizations eligible?
Yes. However, projects must have an eligible use and they must be open to the general public. Commercial uses that involve the selling of merchandise or services to the public are generally preferred. Projects will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis to confirm eligibility.

Can I apply for this program if my project is residential?
Residential-only development is not eligible, but mixed-use projects are eligible. Further funding opportunities for residential projects are expected to be announced in early 2022.

Are the residential portions of mixed-use developments eligible costs?
Yes, the residential portions of mixed-use developments can be included in the grant request as part of total project costs. However, not every project will receive its full requested grant amount. 

Can I apply for this grant if I have a mobile business, such as a food truck?
No, not at this time. These grants are limited to permanent building improvements.

Are start-ups able to apply?
Yes.

Can I apply if I have a home-based business?
No, home-based businesses are not eligible for this program, unless the business owner intends to move the business into a commercial space.

Can these grants be used for staffing or operations of my business?
No. These grants are limited to permanent building improvements and cannot be used for business operations, including staff costs.

Is new construction eligible?
Yes. New construction, rehabilitation and remodeling projects are all eligible for the program. 

Can you apply for this program if you’ve already received other City funds (such as NOF, SBIF, TIF)?
Yes. Prior City funding does not disqualify projects from this program. In your application, please explain why you need additional funds beyond what was previously awarded.

If I apply for this program, will I also be considered for other City programs?
The large grant application is also the application for the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund (NOF) Large grant program, Tax Increment Financing (TIF) and Cook County Property Tax Incentives (Classes 6b, 7a, 7b, 7c, and C). Submissions will be considered for these programs, although each program has a separate application review cycle.

Can I apply if I don’t have detailed construction estimates or designs yet?
Construction cost estimates and architectural designs are not required to apply. However, they are strongly recommended to demonstrate project readiness. 

Are acquisition costs eligible?
Yes, acquisition expenses can be included in the grant request as part of total project costs. However, not every project will receive its full requested grant amount. 

To be eligible, the acquisition costs must be part of a larger construction or renovation project that is being submitted. Grant funds cannot cover solely acquisition costs.

Are pre-development costs, such as architectural fees, eligible?
Yes. Applicants can include pre-development costs as part of their proposed project submission.

Is furniture, fixtures, and equipment (FFE) eligible?
No, FFE is not eligible.

Can I apply if I am currently acquiring or plan to acquire land through programs such as the Cook County Land Bank or Large Lots?
Yes. Site control is preferred through ownership or lease, but a clear path to site control is acceptable, whether through a letter of intent from the owner or a clear application to one of these government land programs.

Will the City provide letters of intent to applicants interested in using City-owned lots?
No. In order to be fair to all potential applicants, the City will not issue letters of intent to any developers or entrepreneurs applying to this program.

Will there be requirements for MBE/WBE contracting or prevailing wage if I accept this grant?
The City anticipates that recipients of large grants will comply with the City’s construction requirements, including WBE/MBE, Local Hiring and Prevailing Wage.

Will applicants be disqualified if there are building code violations on their property?
Yes. Building code violations should be addressed prior to applying.

Can funds be used for environmental remediation?
Funds can be used for environmental remediation if it is part of a larger construction project. For example, remediation is an eligible cost if you remediate land and build a store on that vacant lot.

Is the grant amount capped at 75 percent of total remaining project costs, or total overall project costs, including money already spent?
Awards are capped at 75 percent of remaining project costs. Money already spent should not be included in your estimates. In your application, focus the construction costs spreadsheet only on remaining costs.

Application

Are there resources available to help me with planning business prior to submitting the application?
You can find helpful resources on the program’s Resources Page.

Can I request a grant of more than $5 million?
The City expects awards to be capped at $5 million, although larger, catalytic projects may be submitted. 

Can I request a grant of more than 75% of my total costs?
No. Chicago Recovery Plan grants will not be awarded for more than 75% of project costs.

Can I still apply for a small grant if I don’t pass the Project Assessment in Submittable?
If you do not pass the Project Assessment, the project is not yet ready to be competitive for this program. To help you strengthen your application, please reference the Resources Page to continue developing your project plan before submitting in a future application round. 

Is the Project Assessment in Submittable required before I submit a large grant application?
No. However, the Project Assessment is recommended if you’re unsure if your project is ready for consideration. Projects that do not pass the assessment will not be competitive for the large grant program. To access the Project Assessment, please visit the small grant application page

I clicked the large grant application link and nothing happened. How do I access the application?
When you click on the large grant application link, the folder with the application documents should automatically download on your computer. Check your downloads folder for “fid_developer_input_form.zip”, which contains both the PDF application and the Developer Input Form Excel spreadsheet. 

Can I apply for both the small and large grant?
Applicants should apply for only the small grant or the large grant, depending on the grant amount requested.

If I am working on multiple developments, can I apply for multiple grants?
Applicants can request funds for multiple projects if they are separate projects, not part of the same development, and are all ready for a strong application. However, please only submit one application per project.

Are projects that have already broken ground or are in progress eligible to apply?
Projects that are in progress are eligible to apply. In your application, please focus on remaining expenditures and the need for funds.

Can I submit a physical application?
No. All applications must be submitted online per instructions on the Community Development Grant website. There is a separate application for small grants, up to $250,000, and large grants, over $250,000.

What type of documentation should I provide if I am leasing the property?
Please submit a copy of the lease, preferably demonstrating a lease for a substantial period of time, along with a letter of consent from the property owner or landlord.

How can I go about building a team to help me successfully plan for my project?

To successfully complete the project, applicants will need to have a project team, including an architect, a general contractor, subcontractors, and legal support.

For assistance building a team, City staff recommends talking to community development organizations. These are non-profit organizations with a mission to support economic and community development. You can find information about additional resources on the Chicago Recovery Plan community development grant website.

Selection

How will project awardees be selected?
Projects will be selected based on strength of application. Competitive projects will be catalytic, benefit the community and demonstrate strong feasibility and readiness. Strong applications will include more documentation to demonstrate these factors, such as site control, letters of intent for site control, architectural designs, business plans, tax returns, etc.

Will information about selected projects be made publicly available?
Awarded projects will be announced publicly, including the project name, location, and amount awarded.

If a proposed project is not accepted for funding in the first round, can the applicant submit the application in a subsequent round?
Yes. Applicants not selected for a particular round may continue to work on their application and then reapply for a later round.

How does equity factor into the selection process?
All projects are encouraged to consider equity as part of their project design. Priority will be given to projects within historically disadvantaged areas, as well as areas that align with other City initiatives, such as INVEST South/West, and public safety initiatives.

Program Details

Will there be a local residence or local hiring bonus, similar to the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund (NOF) program?
No. While community wealth-building makes a proposed project more competitive, there is not a specific grant bonus for local hiring.

Will I receive the grant funds up front, or do I need to pay for the work first and submit invoices to be reimbursed?
Recipients must submit invoices in order to receive funds. Invoicing may be done multiple times during the project. Awardees do not need to wait until the project is complete. 

Are Chicago Recovery Plan community development grants the same as Neighborhood Opportunity Fund (NOF) Grants?
No. These are separate programs, and there are key differences between them. For example, the Chicago Recovery Plan community redevelopment grants have a higher maximum grant amount at $5 million, no geographic restrictions within the city limits and allow for light industrial businesses to apply.

Is this program replacing the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund (NOF)?
No, the NOF program will continue. These funds are intended to supplement and amplify the goals and objectives of NOF.

How many projects are you expecting to fund in each round?
This depends on the number and quality of applications received, and the City is not targeting a set number of projects or funds in each round. The number of awards will depend on the strength and readiness of the submitted projects.

How long will awardees have to complete their projects?
Competitive applications should demonstrate ability to break ground within six months and should aim to be completed within two years.

Competitive projects will demonstrate connection to community needs and plans. Where can I find community plans for specific neighborhoods?
A few potential resources for community plans include DPD-supported community plans, INVEST South/West and Quality of Life Plans from LISC, among other resources. Questions about active plans for a specific neighborhood can be directed to dpd@cityofchicago.org.

Last updated Jan. 14, 2021

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