Call it a small business grant competition with a twist. The Downtown Cleveland Alliance 5th Street Arcades Retail Development Grant Competition
will award $1,500 to $20,000 to startup businesses. Along with free and reduced rent for the first year, tenants will also have a chance to win matching funds and garner community support through online crowdfunding.
Downtown Cleveland Alliance and developer Dick Pace are hoping that the recently launched program, which is being funded by Charter One Growing Communities, will help kickstart new downtown retail and fill up long-vacant spaces in the 5th Street Arcades
(formerly the Colonial Arcade).
"I already have people calling me," says Pace, who has added several new shops since taking over a master lease for the arcades, including Curious Cleaveland, Chocolate 76 and Different Things Gallery. "We need more than one single shop, but a group of retailers that feed off each other and create that synergy."
The crowdfunding campaigns, which will take place after winners are selected, will give retailers a chance to raise funds and generate buzz. "They get capital support from DCA, and support from crowdfunding. It's a pretty powerful combination."
Carrie Carpenter of Charter One Growing Communities says that providing gap funding to new urban retailers has been so successful that the program is being rolled out in other cities outside of Northeast Ohio. "When you look at it from a small business perspective, we have tons of entrepreneurs in Cleveland, tons of great ideas," she says. "The challenge is that they simply lack funding to make it happen. Growing Communities is about helping neighborhoods succeed."
The competition began Tuesday, January 29 and runs through Friday, March 1, 2013. Applications must be received by 5 p.m. on March 1 to be eligible. Finalists will be notified on or before March 20, 2013. Grant applications will be judged on their merits by a selection committee.
Finalists will run crowdfunding campaigns from March 25 to April 24. Winners and grant amounts are scheduled to be announced the week of April 29.
Source: Carrie Carpenter, Dick Pace
Writer: Lee Chilcote