Tenant Improvement Fund

The Seattle Office of Economic Development (OED) is investing $1.9 million for tenant improvement grants that will support small businesses impacted by COVID-19. Through an open application process, the Tenant Improvement Fund will grant small businesses up to $100,000 to build out commercial spaces and make commercial improvements more affordable.

The lack of affordable commercial spaces across the city for small business owners — particularly for Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC) communities are a result of ongoing systemic barriers such as lack of access to capital, displacement, discrimination, inequitable public policy, and more. The pandemic exacerbated both the rise in commercial vacancies propelled by online retail and shifts to online and home-based work in some industries, and the continued challenges BIPOC communities face to acquire affordable commercial spaces. 

The Tenant Improvement Fund will:

  • Respond to an immediate need to fill empty storefronts within our city to support the economic recovery of Seattle through inclusive and intentional investments.
  • Fill gaps in existing funding for commercial space improvements.
  • Support wealth generation for business owners.
  • Provide accessible and in-language commercial space technical knowledge and resources, and
  • Give businesses access to expedited permitting services and consultant resources to assist with project needs such as space planning, assistance in talking with a landlord, assistance in selecting a general contractor, and managing the buildout process. (Consultant assistance will be provided with 10 initial hours at no cost to the business.) 

This program is funded by the Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Fund as established by the American Rescue Plan.

Please review eligibility, required documentation and additional information below before submitting your application. Applications are due on September 8, 2022, at 5:00 p.m.

Apply here!

To qualify for the Tenant Improvement Fund, eligible small businesses must:

  • Be a for-profit business that is independently owned, non-franchise and non-chain business located within the Seattle city limits.
  • Have experienced direct economic disruption because of COVID-19.
  • Have an active City of Seattle Business License.
  • Have filed City Business and Occupation (B&O) taxes and paid taxes in full if owed or comply within two months of selection.
  • Began operating business prior to 2019 or if project is a startup, applicant must have prior business experience or industry experience.
  • Submit a letter of support for your project. Letters should be written by a local neighborhood business district organization, fellow small business owner, or nonprofit organization located in the neighborhood where your desired project is or will be located.

Location:

  • Plan for the tenant improvement project to be located within Seattle city limits.
  • Have no more than two (2) locations.  

Size:

  • Have no more than 50 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees. 
  • Have an annual gross revenue of no more than $2 million.
  • Be a sole proprietor, C-corporation, cooperative, limited liability company,
    partnership or limited partnership. 

Additionally, projects awarded must be able to provide the following to remain eligible for funding:

  • Submit a Letter of Intent (LOI) or signed lease from landlord within six (6) months of selection.
  • Begin construction before December 2023. 

Businesses NOT eligible to apply for the Tenant Improvement Fund include:

  • Business located in unincorporated King County.
  • “Adult entertainment” businesses regulated under Seattle Municipal Code 6.270.
  • Cannabis shops, growers and dispensaries are ineligible.
  • 501(c)(3), 501(c)(6) or 501(c)(19) nonprofit entities.

A Community Advisory Group will review and score applications in partnership with OED. Additional support from the National Development Council (NDC) will be provided to advise on applicant’s project readiness and viability. Awards will be announced in October.

Selection of awardees and grant amounts will be prioritized by the following criteria: 

Viability: Business sustainability such as historic sales or annual gross sales, and business experience. For startup projects, applicant must have past business or industry experience.

Project readiness: Status of physical space, project description, budget detail and commitment of other funding sources.

Equity: Projects serving high COVID-impacted and high displacement risk neighborhoods and/or projects focusing support for BIPOC, women owned businesses.

Impact: Projects or business owners providing social and/or public benefits that show positive impact in the community. Projects that would support small businesses from being displaced or support the relocation of businesses that were displaced.

  • Eligible small businesses can receive up to $100,000. Total grant amount is determined by actual project need and the demonstration of negative COVID impacts to the business.  
  • Tenant Improvement Fund grants are awarded as a forgivable loan with 0% interest. The loan will convert to a grant after the business has continued operations for a one-year period following the completion of project construction.
  • The Tenant Improvement Fund award is not intended to cover the full costs of the project. The small business will be required to cover a portion of the project costs and landlords are expected to provide a tenant improvement allowance for the project. 
  • Awards must be contracted within six months of the award announcement and must be fully expended by December 15, 2023.

Small businesses interested in applying for the Tenant Improvement Fund will need to comply with City Business License and Business and Occupation (B&O) tax requirements to be eligible for this fund.

Eligible applicants will need the following documentation to submit their application:

  • Unified Business Identifier (UBI) number (nine digits).
    • Businesses will receive a Unified Business Identifier number when they apply for their Washington state Business License. This can be done through the Department of Revenue online or by mail. Applicants can search for their Unified Business Identifier number online at wa.gov/businesses.
  • City Business License number (six digits).
    • Anyone doing business in Seattle must have a Seattle Business License tax certificate, also known as a City Business License number, City Customer number or general business license. Business owners must renew this certificate each year by Dec. 31.
    • This City Business License number is separate from the Washington state business license. If businesses cannot find their number on the City Business License Find a Business search tool, they may only have a Washington state license.
    • Businesses can apply for a City Business License and renew online at filelocal-wa.gov or by mail.
  • Business and Occupation (B&O) taxes.
    • Every business must file and report to the city, even if there was no activity or do not owe any tax. The Seattle business tax is not the same as the Washington state business tax; businesses must file Seattle taxes separately from state taxes.
    • Businesses do not owe general Business and Occupation (B&O) tax if their annual taxable gross revenue is less than $100,000, but businesses still need to file.
    • Businesses can file and report online at filelocal-wa.gov or by mail. For additional questions about these taxes, businesses can reach out to Seattle Finance at tax@seattle.gov.
  • Statement of COVID impact.
    • Statement explaining how COVID impacted your business including revenue loss and description of increased costs (for example, personal protective equipment, cleaning expenses, delivery fees charged by third party apps, etc.). If selected for funding, the business will need to submit recent financial statements from 2019, 2020 and 2021 to document the business’ financial condition and COVID impact. 
  • Budget and sources.
    • Development budget describing project costs (hard construction, soft costs, etc.) and funding sources. If the applicant has not yet received commitment of the other development funding sources, the applicant may still apply but all funding sources must be secured as a condition of disbursement for the Tenant Improvement Fund award.
    • Example Budget and Sources.
  • Letter of support.
    • Applicants will need to submit a letter of support from the local neighborhood business district organization, fellow small business owner, or nonprofit organization where the project is or will be located.
    • Letter of Support Template.

If selected for funding, the City will require a Letter of Intent (LOI) or Lease.

  • Applicants do not need to have a Letter of Intent or Lease to apply for funding. However, if the business is selected for funding, the City will require a Letter of Intent or signed lease from landlord as a condition for funding disbursement within six months of selection.

Applications are due on September 8, 2022, at 5:00 p.m., via the online grant portal. Late applications will not be accepted. 

Bilingual staff are available to answer questions and help applicants complete their applications in the following languages: Amharic, Chinese, Korean, Somali, Spanish, Thai and Vietnamese. Support in additional languages is available through our language line. To request translation or interpretation services, businesses can call (206) 684-8090 and note the following information in their voicemail: name, phone number, preferred language and the type of support needed. 

Application Timeline:    

  • August 2, 2022: Tenant Improvement Fund application opens.
  • September 8, 2022: Tenant Improvement Fund application closes at 5 p.m.
  • October 2022: Grant awardees will be notified of selection and additional documentation (as needed).

Information Sessions

Two information sessions were hosted, click here to view the recording.

Please review the following materials to prepare before submitting your application.

 

START YOUR APPLICATION NOW

1. What if I own multiple businesses or locations?

If an individual owns multiple businesses or no more than two (2) locations, the individual is limited to apply for one funding award for one business or location. 

2. What type of tenant improvement projects qualify for this funding?

The Tenant Improvement Fund will cover renovation costs to existing space such as outdoor seating, installation of takeout windows, improvements to air filtration systems and expansion of current space. Also, the Tenant Improvement Fund will cover buildout costs for a new location.  

3. What can I use the funding for?

Funding can be used for the full range of costs in a tenant improvement project, including hard construction costs, non-construction soft costs (architect fees, permit fees, etc.) and equipment. 

4. What is the timeline for the Tenant Improvement Fund selection process?

After the six-week application period closes, OED will begin reviewing applications and selecting recipients to receive City funding support during the month of September 2022. All applicants will be notified of their status in October 2022. 

5. What information will I need to apply?

Applicants will need to submit documentation, including: 

  • Statement explaining how COVID impacted your business including revenue loss and description of increased costs (for example, personal protective equipment, cleaning expenses, delivery fees charged by third party apps, etc.). If selected for funding, the business will need to submit recent financial statements from 2019, 2020 and 2021 to document the business’ financial condition and COVID impact. 
  • Development budget describing project costs (hard construction, soft costs, etc.) and funding sources. If the applicant has not yet received commitment of the other development funding sources, the applicant may still apply but all funding sources must be secured as a condition of disbursement for the Tenant Improvement Fund award. 
  • Letter of Intent or Lease: Applicants do not need to have a Letter of Intent or Lease to apply for funding. However, if the business is selected for funding, the City will require a Letter of Intent or Lease as a condition for funding disbursement within six months of selection. 
  • Letter of Support from the local neighborhood business district organization, fellow small business owner or nonprofit organization where the project is or will be located.  

6. What if I am currently looking for a project location?

Applicants do not need to have a Letter of Intent or Lease at the time of applying for funding.  However, applicants will need to identify potential site(s) where the project will be located. If the business is selected for funding, the City will require a Letter of Intent or Lease as a condition for funding disbursement within six months of selection. 

7. What if I need help locating the local Neighborhood Business District Organization to request a letter of support?

If your project is in one of the neighborhoods listed on this Business District Organizations document, the following organizations can be contacted to inquire about a letter of support. If you do not see the neighborhood listed or have other questions, please contact the Office of Economic Development at  (206) 684-8090 or oed@seattle.gov.

8. What if I need help with the application?

For general questions about the application, please contact Chera Amlag, Tenant Improvement Fund Program Manager, at chera.amlag@seattle.gov or call (206) 914-7130.

The Seattle Office of Economic Development is committed to building an equitable and inclusive economy that benefits the whole city by promoting access to economic opportunities for all of Seattle’s diverse communities.

The City of Seattle encourages everyone to participate in its programs and activities. For additional questions, translation or interpretation, technical assistance, disability accommodations, materials in alternate formats or accessibility information, please contact the Office of Economic Development at (206) 684-8090 or oed@seattle.gov.