Winners of the third round of grants from the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund pose for a picture with Mayor Emanuel Aug. 1 at Fernwood Park.

Neighborhood Opportunity Fund invests $13.8 million more in small businesses on Chicago’s south and west sides

A total of 40 small businesses won grants this month from Mayor Emanuel’s signature equitable development initiative, including a Grand Boulevard grocery store, a Woodlawn tech incubator, a North Lawndale restaurant and a Little Village fruit market.

“Small businesses have a large impact on their neighborhoods,” said Mayor Emanuel. “By supporting a variety of neighborhood anchors like local grocery stores or family owned businesses, the City is helping build community pride and reinvigorate commercial corridors across Chicago.”

The program provides grants to economic development projects along commercial corridors on the South, West and Southwest Sides of the City. Approval criteria considered project feasibility and ability to have a measurable, catalytic impact on a community based on the availability of similar goods or services nearby.

The program is financed by voluntary payments made by downtown development projects in exchange for increased density for a given site. Eighty percent of those payments are earmarked for the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund for use on projects on the South and West sides. The remainder is split between local infrastructure projects and landmark buildings citywide.

This month’s announcements included seven grants above $250,000, which must be approved by City Council, and 33 smaller grants, which are managed administratively by the Department of Planning and Development. The large grant winners, announced Monday, include:

· Austin Fine Arts Center, 5608 W. Washington Blvd., Austin
· Bronzeville Salon Suites, 80 E. Pershing Road, Douglas
· Enlace Chicago, 2759 S. Harding Ave., South Lawndale
· Home Run Inn Pizza Inc., 4254 W. 31st St., South Lawndale
· Leamington Foods, 3250 W. Roosevelt Road, North Lawndale
· Sunshine Gospel Ministries, 360–76 E. 61st St., Washington Park
· SYTE Corp., 6793 S. South Chicago Ave., Woodlawn, $1.96 million

The 33 smaller grant winners, announced Aug. 1, include:

· A community art space on 91st Street in South Chicago
· A community café and business incubator in Little Village
· A family-owned barbecue restaurant on Chicago Avenue in Austin
· A barber college on Halsted Street in Roseland
· The new visitor’s center for the National Monument Park in Pullman

A full list of awardees and additional details are available at the program’s website, www.neighborhoodopportunityfund.com.

“Enlace Chicago is thrilled about this investment in our neighborhood, and the opportunity to work with more Little Village residents, finding creative ways to market their talents, while improving their economic status,” said Katya Nuques, Executive Director for Enlace Chicago.

Total investment for the 40 projects is estimated to be nearly $58 million.

Businesses receiving investment from the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund are offered support from the City to obtain necessary permits, licenses and other business needs.

“These are public-private partnerships, every step of the way,” DPD Commissioner David L. Reifman said. “We’re committed to doing everything in our power to secure financing and get these projects over the finish line to improve quality of life for South and West side residents.”

Since its inception, the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund has collected more than $25 million from downtown construction projects. Payments are made to the City when building permits are issued. Approximately $45 million from approved projects is pending.