Retail Thrive Zones


Retail Thrive Zones Investments Will Create Jobs and Revitalize Commercial Corridors on the City’s South, Southwest and West Sides

Mayor Rahm Emanuel today awarded 50 entrepreneurs with more than $5 million in grants to support eight designated neighborhood commercial corridors across Chicago’s South, Southwest and West Sides. The grants are part of the Mayor’s $16 million Retail Thrive Zone initiative, which is expected to build community wealth, create new local amenities and generate more than 650 new jobs, plus more than 1,500 temporary construction jobs.

“Local businesses are economic and cultural hubs that create jobs and amenities in our neighborhoods,” Mayor Emanuel said. “These investments in our neighborhood entrepreneurs represent our commitment to their success and the revitalization of neighborhoods across Chicago.”

The grants are designed to address common obstacles facing entrepreneurs, including access to capital and other business support services. The funding can be used to reimburse the costs of rehabbing commercial buildings, including structural repairs and improvements to roofs, facades, and plumbing, electrical or HVAC systems.

Additional services through the Retail Thrive Zone initiative include new pop-up retail spaces that will help entrepreneurs and growing businesses test new concepts without incurring heavy capital costs, as well as coordinated coaching, mentoring and networking opportunities. Mayor Emanuel and the City Council also passed an ordinance this spring to pre-authorize vacant commercial properties in the Thrive Zones for redevelopment tax incentives. Of today’s grant recipients, 14 are automatically eligible for additional project support worth an estimated total of $725,000.

The City will continue supporting the Retail Thrive Zone corridors through an additional $7 million investment to help target distressed buildings, coupled with light infrastructure investments underway to encourage visitors. More than 100 of these infrastructure improvements, which were identified by community partners, have already been made. Additional projects are scheduled to be completed this summer.

"Our focus on these pilot neighborhood commercial corridors allows us to leverage our investment in projects that can bring about catalytic change," said Planning and Development Commissioner David L. Reifman. "And by coupling infrastructure improvements with small business grants, we’re maximizing the growth potential for these neighborhoods."

The eight designated retail corridors are located in the Austin, Back of Yards, Bronzeville, Chatham, Englewood, South Shore, West Humboldt Park and West Pullman neighborhoods. The grant application process for the South Shore Retail Thrive Zone will open in late summer.

The grants are the latest in a series of Emanuel administration initiatives to support neighborhood businesses. In June, Mayor Emanuel presented the first round of Neighborhood Opportunity Fund investment grants. The initiative generates funding from downtown development projects to support commercial growth on Chicago’s south and west sides. The next application round for Neighborhood Opportunity Fund projects will launch this fall.

For more information and to see a complete list of awardees, visit: