Chapel Hill Economic Development Announces Grant Program for Downtown Small Businesses

The Town of Chapel Hill Economic Development office is launching a new grant program to assist existing Downtown small businesses. The grant funding is made available through undesignated American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds that were allocated to the department in 2021. The grant parameters are a response to the continued redevelopment of Rosemary and Franklin Street. The economic development team and community partners involved in the program recognize the importance of retaining local businesses that chose to make Chapel Hill their home. Dwight Bassett, Director of Economic Development and Parking Services emphasized “Locally owned retailers and restaurants represent a significant brand for Chapel Hill and benefit our community the most economically”. Franklin and Rosemary have iconic storefronts which are crucial to maintaining an economically strong Downtown. These storefronts create an ecosystem where the image, appearance, and environment encourage walkability and attract visitors. Recipients would be eligible to use the funds for revenue-generating space improvements, moving/relocation costs, lease payments, and down payment assistance to purchase commercial space. 

This development of this grant program has been in the works for months, with the Economic Development staff researching and evaluating similar programs across the country. The Town’s Economic Development Manager, Katie Bowden, who spearheaded the effort, stated “The goal of this program is to help ‘level the playing field’ for local small businesses facing relocation pressure due to market forces at work in our Downtown”. An advisory subcommittee was formed to provide feedback as the guidelines and scoring metrics developed. These members represent a variety of stakeholder groups or bring relevant expert knowledge and will be responsible for reviewing and evaluating applications. This program is made possible through a partnership with The Chamber for a Greater Chapel Hill-Carrboro, which will assist in distributing grant funds to awardees. While the grant only has an initial pool of $100,000, staff hopes this application cycle could serve as a successful pilot to pitch to potential funding partners and transform the grant into a continuous program.    

The application will be available online starting July 1st, 2023, and will remain open to receiving applications until August 30th, 2023. The grant subcommittee is expected to review the applications and select the grant recipients in Fall 2023. Questions about the program guidelines or application can be sent via email to   

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