Tenant Improvement Program

Updated 7/11/2024

Applications for the Tenant Improvement Program are currently closed.

Our Tenant Improvement Program supports entrepreneurs at critical stages of development, whether you're seeking your first physical location, need storefront improvements, or are expanding. We offer six (6) different awards between three tracks – Emerge, Improve, and Expand.

  • Emerge Track packages help new businesses find or build out a permanent space in the City of Seattle.
  • Improve Track packages award existing businesses with funding for signage, equipment, and safety upgrades.
  • Expand Track packages award funding to help expanding businesses complete a new build-out.

To see if you qualify for a Emerge, Improve, or Expand package, please review the full eligibility requirements and package details below before applying.

Informational Video

The virtual information session below was hosted on Webex and recorded.

Eligibility requirements and package details

Your business is eligible for support if:

  • It is a for-profit business that is independently owned, non-franchise, and non-chain located within the Seattle city limits.
  • You are able to demonstrate a benefit to the community
  • You began operating before 2022
  • You have at least 3 years of prior business or industry experience
  • Your business has an active City of Seattle Business License
  • You have filed City Business and Occupation (B&O) taxes
  • You have paid taxes in full or will within two months of award selection

Your business must also meet the following location and size requirements:

  • Located within Seattle city limits
  • Two (2) or fewer locations
  • Fewer than 50 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees
  • An annual gross revenue below $2 million

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

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

Awarded projects must provide the following to remain eligible for funding:

  • A signed lease from landlord with 5 years remaining
    • Does not apply to the Pre-Lease Package (Emerge Track) or New Construction Package (Expand Track)
  • Begin installation and/or construction within 3 months of signing the award contract

These packages offer professional support and consulting services (technical assistance). They do not include any direct cash awards. The program reimburses qualified technical assistance providers for services provided to awardees.

1. Pre-lease Service Package (value: up to $20,000)

Provides mobile, digital, home-based, or pop-up businesses (i.e., in space for 2 years or less) with one-on-one business development consultations to help find a permanent space in the City of Seattle.

  • With the help of a business development coach, awardees will create a business plan to strengthen their growth strategies and understand the space needs of their business.
  • Introduction to banks and non-traditional lending partners to help identify funding sources.
  • Access to vetted commercial brokers to view available commercial properties that match their business needs, budget, and desired geographic location.
  • An estimator to provide base building costs after a Letter of Intent (LOI) is signed.
  • Lease advocacy and review.

In addition to all other eligibility requirements, qualifying businesses have 3 years of business experience, have been in operation for at least 2 years, and must provide 2 years of self-reported tax information.

2. Professional Design and Architectural Service Package (value: up to $30,000)

Businesses applying for this package must be in their first location in Seattle and need architectural design, engineering, and pre-construction services. The package includes:

  • Professional architecture and construction consultations to help build out your commercial space. This includes designs, plans, permits, and drawings.
  • A general contractor to support budget development with estimates based on professional designs.
  • Introductions to banks and non-traditional lending partners to help identify funding sources.

In addition to all other eligibility requirements, businesses must have their first physical location in Seattle secured and must have at least three (3) more years remaining in their current lease. Documents will be reviewed by our consultant team to ensure compliance.

1. Signage Package (cash award up to $15,000)

This award must be used by an existing business to contribute towards exterior signage for their commercial business. This award does not cover installation of signage. Awarded businesses must prove they can pay for labor and installation.

Qualifying businesses have been in operation and open for at least two (2) years in their current space with at least five (5) more years remaining in their current lease.

Businesses will have to demonstrate benefit to the community to meet their award amount. This could include jobs created, community events supported, or meals donated (for example).

2. Equipment Package (cash award up to $50,000)

This cash award may be used by an existing business for equipment purchases.

  • Equipment must be purchased from a commercial equipment supplier

  • Business should demonstrate how equipment purchases will support the stabilization and/or growth of their business

  • The cash award does not pay for installation of equipment

  • Businesses must be able to pay for the removal of old equipment as well as labor and installation of equipment (subject to verification)

Business must have at least five (5) more years remaining in their current lease.

Businesses will have to demonstrate benefit to the community to meet their award amount. This could include jobs created, community events supported, or meals donated (for example).

3. Health and Safety Leasehold Improvements Package (cash award up to $100,000)

This package is for existing businesses in need of renovation to fix an eligible health and safety related issue. Examples include improvements for ADA accessibility, uneven flooring, necessary upgrades to HVAC, plumbing, electrical, lighting, and more

  • Cash is awarded through a 0% forgivable loan.

  • Construction projects must be bid on and paid in accordance with prevailing wage rates.

  • Awardees must have at least five (5) more years remaining in their current lease. All other eligibility requirements can be reviewed here.

  • Businesses will have to demonstrate benefit to the community to meet their award amount. This could include jobs created, community events supported, or meals donated (for example).

Qualifying businesses are moving into a new construction or ground floor commercial space (due to displacement or improved opportunity) where your business is the first to establish its use. You must already have a physical location in Seattle secured with a letter of intent or lease.

An Expand Track package provides:

  • A cash award through a 0% forgivable loan for commercial tenant improvement projects
  • Professional architecture and construction consultants to design the build out of your commercial space. This includes design, plans, and permit.
  • A general contractor to support budget development with estimates based on professional designs, and a construction manager to ensure project completion and compliance
  • Introductions to banks and non-traditional lending partners to help finalize budget and identify funding sources

New Construction value amounts (Cash Award and Technical Service Package) are to be determined per project. The gap funding (cash award) will not exceed 50% of total project costs. The landlord will be expected to contribute 10%-20% of the total project costs. An exception to the 50% rule applies to projects costing under $100,000.

Construction projects must be bid on and paid in accordance with prevailing wage rates.

Awardees must have at least five (5) more years remaining in their current lease.

Please review the following materials before submitting your application.

Required Documentation

The following documentation must be submitted with your application:

  1. Unified Business Identifier (UBI) number

    • Businesses receive a 9-digit UBI number when they apply for their Washington State Business License. This can be done through the Department of Revenue online or by mail.

    • You can also search for an existing UBI number online.

  2. City Business License number

    • Anyone doing business in Seattle must have a 6-digit Seattle Business License tax certificate (also known as a City Business License number), a City Customer number, or a general business license. Business owners must renew this certificate each year by December 31.

    • This City Business License number is separate from the Washington state business license. If you cannot find your number with the Find a Business search tool, you may only have a Washington state license.

    • Businesses can apply for or renew a City Business License online or by mail.

  3. Business and Occupation (B&O) tax filing

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

    • Every business must file and report to the City even if there was no activity or you 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 can file and report online or by mail. For additional questions about these taxes, businesses can reach out to Seattle Finance at tax@seattle.gov.

    • 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.

  4. 2022 and 2023 Tax information

    • If applying for Health and Safety or New Construction packages, you will also need 2021 tax information

  5. Unique Entity ID (UEI) number

    • For New Construction Package only

  6. Signed Lease for all awards except Pre-Lease and New Construction. For new construction, an LOI is required.

  7. Budget and sources

    • Health and Safety and New Construction Packages will require the business to develop a budget describing project costs (hard construction, soft costs, etc.) and funding sources.

    • If you have not yet received commitment from other development funding sources you may still apply, but all funding sources must be secured as a condition of disbursement for the Tenant Improvement Program award.

    • Example Budget and Sources (PDF).

  8. Letter of Support

Applications are due on June 24, 2024, at 5:00 p.m. Submit your application via the online portal. Late applications will not be accepted.


  • May 20, 2024: Tenant Improvement Program applications open.

  • June 24, 2024: Tenant Improvement Program applications close at 5 p.m.

  • July-August 2024: Grant awardees will be notified of selection and additional documentation (as needed).

Information Sessions

We will hold information sessions to describe this funding opportunity and answer questions. The following virtual sessions will be hosted on Webex and will be recorded:

Selection Criteria and Review Process

A Community Advisory Group will review and score applications in partnership with OED for the Health and Safety and New Construction awards. Grow America (GA) will advise on applicants’ project readiness and viability.

Awardees and grant amounts will be prioritized and scored by the following criteria:

  • Equity: Projects serving high displacement risk neighborhoods and/or projects supporting BIPOC, and/or women owned businesses.

  • Viability: Business sustainability such as historic sales or annual gross sales, and business experience.

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

  • Impact: Projects or business owners providing social and/or public benefits that show positive community impact.

OED staff will select the top scores as finalists. Finalists must complete a supplemental application (see below), site visit, and interview to determine the feasibility and financial need of each project.

Finalists are required (but not limited) to submit the following in their supplemental application:

  • Written project plan

  • Detailed itemized budget

  • Lease or letter of intent (except for pre-lease service package)

  • Cost estimates received from contractors or commercial equipment suppliers.

  • Personal and business financial information; and

  • Loan application and/or proof of funding

NOTE: For construction projects, a community selection committee which may include industry experts, Seattle business owners, and lenders will then select awardees from the finalist pool.

Selected entrepreneurs are starting or expanding their businesses in Seattle must have at least five (5) years remaining on their lease. They must also provide verification of new jobs created or existing jobs retained and demonstrate a benefit to the community.

  • Tenant Improvement Program 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 construction or when they meet their public benefit requirement.

  • The Tenant Improvement Program 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 three months of the award announcement and must be fully expended 12 months after the contract is signed.

All packages except for the Pre-lease, Design, and New Construction Packages will be required to have at lease 5 years remaining on their Lease Agreement.

  • Pre-lease Package does not require a lease since the package that you will be awarded will involve assisting the business owner in locating a commercial space and signing a lease at that time.

  • Design Package requires a 3-year lease because there is not a construction requirement.

  • New Construction Package awardees may submit a lease agreement if they have one, but it is not required. You may apply for this package with a Letter of Intent (LOI) from the landlord. However, the city will require a signed lease from landlord as a condition for funding disbursement within six months of selection.  

Can I apply if I own multiple businesses?

Yes, you can apply if you own multiple businesses, however you can only apply for one of your business locations.

Can I apply if I have multiple locations? 

Yes, you can apply, but please note you can only apply for one location and you can have no more than 2 locations total.

Does a mobile food business/cart count as one location?

No, because it is not a brick-and-mortar location. A mobile food business/cart doesn’t count towards the requirement of no more than 2 locations.

What can I use the funding for?

The funding awards can only be used for specific purposes, each cash award package will have different funding criteria, please refer to the application descriptions for details.

Can the Tenant Improvement Award fund a home-based business located at my residence?

No, city funding can only be awarded to businesses located inside a commercial space building.

How many award packages can I apply for at one time?

You can only apply for one award at a time during each application round. If you would like to apply for another award during the next application round you can.

What are the requirements for cash awards that I need to be aware of?

All cash award packages are given in the form of 0% forgivable loans and are funded through the Payroll Expense Tax (PET) or Federal Community Development Block Grants (CDBG). These two funding sources have requirements of prevailing wage and public benefit which will be a requirement of loan forgiveness. OED staff will assist you in creating a plan for fulfilling these requirements.

What is the timeline for the Tenant Improvement Program selection process?

The Tenant Improvement Program application portal will open on Monday, May 20 and close on Monday, June 24 at 5 p.m. After the application period closes, our team and our partners will begin reviewing applications and select recipients to receive their awards. We will aim to notify applicants of their status starting in July through early August. 

What information will I need to apply? 

See main page for detailed package information.

What if I need help requesting a Letter of Support?

If you are applying for funding in the Improve or Expand track you will need to submit a Letter of support from the local neighborhood business district organization, neighborhood small business owner, or nonprofit organization where the project is or will be located. If your project is in one of the neighborhoods listed on this Business District Organizations document, you can contact your organization to inquire about a Letter of Support. We have created a draft Letter of Support for reference.

What if I need help with the application?

For general questions about the application, please email oed_tiprogram@seattle.gov or phone 206-684-8090.

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

Economic Development

Markham McIntyre, Director
Address: 700 5th Ave, Suite 5752, Seattle, WA, 98104
Mailing Address: PO Box 94708, Seattle, WA, 98124-4708
Phone: (206) 684-8090
Phone Alt: (206) 684-0379
Fax: (206) 684-0379

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The mission of the Office of Economic Development (OED) is to help create healthy businesses, thriving neighborhoods, and community organizations to contribute to a robust economy that will benefit all Seattle residents and future generations.