Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the launch of an innovative partnership project called Up the Block to promote Chicago economic development and support small businesses in the city.
Under this program, the City will work with private developers to bring vacant sites back into use in a way that supports small businesses and helps revitalize communities.
As a start, the City is teaming up with FLATS Chicago. Up the Block‚Äôs inaugural partner will be the #FLATSProject ‚Äì a small business and community accelerator project.
By connecting developers to local small businesses, Up the Block aims to spur economic development in the Edgewater and Uptown communities while putting vacant spaces back in use.
Mayor Emanuel said that small businesses are the backbone of Chicago‚Äôs economy, and by pairing property developers and small businesses in these neighborhoods, the City is encouraging their growth while investing in the community and its residents.
Through the Up the Block program, the City will assist developers in identifying funding sources such as TIF and SBIF, and will help developers apply for the funding.
The small business owners will get huge benefits, including rent reductions and technical support for getting started. Entrepreneurs will get business plan assistance from university students and Chicago SBDCs.
They will be provided assistance with business license and permit applications, and will be provided access to microloans. The program will help small businesses market their new storefront business, including marketing videos produced for them through the City‚Äôs Small Business Center (SBC).
Initially, the #FLATSProject plans to bring four unique small businesses to vacant storefronts in existing developments. FLATS Chicago will support these businesses with up to $50,000 in tenant improvement and other services that will help accelerate their growth and success.
If the small business signs on for at least five years, FLATS Chicago will provide the store free of rent for the first year. They will handle all the legal work associated with registering the business, and provide mentorship and strategic alliances through nationally known brand partners.
FLATS Chicago and Cedar Street Co CMO Jay Michael said they believe that small businesses are the lifeblood of a community as local producers of meaningful goods and services, and as creators of jobs and opportunities. Michael added that each business owner helps in creating the foundations that neighborhoods are built on.