Special to the Gazette
Mayor Michelle Wu announced the launch of the SPACE Grant program in partnership with the Office of Economic Opportunity & Inclusion (OEOI). The program will identify creative ways to bring people back to major commercial districts, revitalize the economy as we emerge from the pandemic, and close the racial wealth gap. Through this program, up to 50 local entrepreneurs will receive substantial grant funding to help them open new storefront businesses in vacant commercial spaces across Boston, with particular emphasis on major commercial hubs like Copley, Downtown, Fenway, and Seaport to increase the diversity of storefront businesses in these neighborhoods.
The SPACE (Supporting Pandemic Affected Community Enterprises) Grant program will provide grants of up to $200,000 over a three-year period to subsidize rents, upfront capital costs, and necessary infrastructure to help local, small, diverse businesses seeking to fill vacant storefronts. The City plans to collaborate with MassDevelopment, Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation, Downtown Boston BID, Main Streets, local commercial banks and CDFIs, and property owners to ensure that participating small business owners have access to additional financial resources and assistance to open and thrive in their new locations. The City expects the first cohort will include approximately 10-15 businesses.
“The SPACE grant program is critical to bolstering our local economy and will help local, small, diverse businesses open new locations across our neighborhoods,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “This grant program addresses commercial vacancies by connecting entrepreneurs with crucial support and the chance to grow. I’m thrilled to launch this program and grateful to our Economic Opportunity & Inclusion Cabinet and all of our partners for their critical work to ensure that Boston’s thriving, inclusive and equitable for all.”
OEOI has received preliminary interest from a range of entrepreneurs through a recent survey and the Boston Main Streets. This initiative will prioritize helping Boston small businesses that were most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, which includes, but is not limited to:
• Arts, creative economy, and entertainment;
• Fitness, recreation, wellness;
• Food service and production;
• Laundry services;
• Repair and maintenance;
• Restaurants; and
The SPACE Grant program is funded by a $9 million investment from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to aid in Boston’s local economic recovery, and will support both entrepreneurs looking to open their first brick and mortar storefront business, as well as current small businesses in the City of Boston looking to expand to new locations within the city.
Grantees will be matched with technical assistance providers that are part of OEOI’s Small Business Technical Assistance Program to set them up for success. In addition, grantees will benefit from workshops and one-on-one coaching to guide them through the operational steps of opening a new storefront location. These skills will include lease negotiation and other legal support, financial, marketing, or other areas of expertise. To assist interested entrepreneurs, OEOI will hold a virtual workshop in mid-January 2023 focused on how to write a business plan for entrepreneurs. For more information, sign up for the City’s small business e-newsletter.
“The SPACE Grant program is a direct response to the immense need for innovative ways to fill storefront vacancies and bring vitality to our neighborhoods that we heard from business owners on the ground, whether through our weekly Main Streets walks, surveys, or our one-on-one engagement,” said Segun Idowu, Chief of Economic Opportunity and Inclusion. “I am grateful to our team and our partners who built this program, and am happy to launch an effort that will bring about a more robust economy and greater diversity to our city.”
Businesses can apply to the SPACE Grant program online at: boston.gov/space-grant. Applications are available in multiple languages.
First cohort application deadline: February 17, 2023
Grantees chosen: April 2023
Applicants must meet the following criteria to be considered for a SPACE Grant:
• Business must be incorporated in a Qualified Census Tract OR one of the prioritized business industries mentioned above.
• Business must have fewer than twenty-five employees (not including the business owner).
• Business owners must provide proof of a Boston business address (e.g., a signed lease, business permit / license / title, utility bill in which the business is named directly, or other home office documentation).
• Business and business owners must be in good-standing with the City of Boston.
• Business must provide a copy of its up to date Business Certificate.
“The Wu Administration’s SPACE Grant Program is a gamechanger for Downtown Boston and our neighborhoods. Providing direct financial and technical assistance to those looking to activate our vacant retail spaces will reduce existing barriers that limit equitable access to these storefronts. This program will open economic opportunities downtown to a wider array of entrepreneurs, make our streets livelier and safer, and support wealth-building for small business owners from a diversity of backgrounds. The Downtown Boston BID and our members are prepared to fully support this effort and to help new businesses thrive and become long-term fixtures Downtown,” said Michael Nichols, President of the Downtown Boston BID.
“As a Main Streets director, I am very excited for the SPACE Grant Program. This is a progressive push forward that meets the basic needs of our small businesses, while filling the vacancies that can plague our neighborhoods,” said Ginger Brown, Executive Director of JP/Centre South Main Streets.
The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted Downtown and its businesses, and the Wu Administration remains committed to its Downtown Revitalization plan, announced in April 2022 to address decreased foot traffic and consumer spending. As Boston aims to encourage people back to its commercial centers, the City is moving forward bold initiatives to increase consumer confidence and support small businesses. While Boston aims to activate spaces in all of our neighborhoods, the City is also seeking to ensure its Downtown core is flourishing.
To learn more, please visit: https://www.boston.gov/space-grant
The vision of the Economic Opportunity and Inclusion Cabinet is of a resilient, equitable, sustainable, and vibrant city that centers people and creates opportunities to build generational wealth. The Cabinet consists of five City departments, including the Office of Consumer Affairs and Licensing, the Office of Economic Opportunity and Inclusion, the Office of Small Business, the Office of Supplier and Workforce Diversity, and the Office of Tourism, Sports, and Entertainment.