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Downtown Storefront Uplift Challenge

Apply before: October 1, 2023

The Downtown Storefront Uplift Challenge is currently accepting applications. This grant program, provided by the Downtown Raleigh Alliance, aims to encourage and attract new retail, restaurant, and service businesses, support the growth of existing retail ventures, provide assistance to strategic areas, accommodate short-term pop-up businesses that might transition into long-term tenants, promote minority and women-owned businesses, and ultimately enhance the vitality of storefront businesses in Downtown Raleigh.

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To be eligible for this program, you must meet the following criteria:

  • You must have a valid business license.
  • Eligible business types include new retail, restaurant, experiential, and service establishments, among others.
  • Existing retail businesses expanding their space by 30% or more are also eligible. (Existing restaurants and service businesses can qualify only if they are relocating to a new location within the designated eligibility area).
  • Pop-up businesses must commit to a minimum three-month lease.
  • The proposed location must be a storefront space located either inside or on the edge of the designated map area.
  • Storefront spaces situated on the “out-of-bounds” side of streets used as boundary lines will be considered eligible. Whether a storefront is considered “on” a boundary street will be determined by the location of the primary customer entrance from the street.
  • Retail businesses can operate within the entire grant boundary area.
  • However, restaurants and service businesses are limited in eligibility to the smaller targeted area.
  • Pop-up concepts, defined by a lease commitment of less than one year, are only eligible within the priority area boundary.
  • Professional office and bar establishments are expressly not eligible, with a “bar” defined as a business where 70% or more of projected or actual revenue comes from onsite alcohol sales and consumption. However, brewery and distillery concepts that include onsite production are exempt from the 70% definition and are explicitly qualified.
  • Encouragement is given to creative concepts that introduce new products or services to downtown. The ultimate determination of eligibility is contingent upon a review by DRA staff.
  • It’s important to note that individuals with immediate family members serving on the DRA Board of Directors or having a direct connection to an entity represented by a DRA Board Member are not eligible to receive funds through this grant program.
  • Eligible  encompass:
  • Tangible expenses for physically enhancing the space.
  • Expenditures associated with design, construction, and implementation.
  • One-time startup expenses.
  • The eligibility of startup expenses must have a direct relevance to the business concept or be deemed essential for the business model. Approval for such expenses is subject to the discretion of DRA staff and the review committee.
  • Operating costs that recur regularly and ongoing expenses are not eligible.

Examples of eligible startup expenses include:

  • Furniture
  • Shelving
  • Signage
  • POS (Point of Sale) system
  • Paint
  • Lighting
  • Decor
  • Displays and more.

Examples of expenses that are not eligible include:

  • Rent
  • Utilities
  • Payroll
  • Packaging
  • Regular cleaning supplies
  • Office supplies
  • Subscription fees
  • Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) expenses
  • Inventory

Preference will be given to locally-owned and independently-operated businesses when allocating funding.

Priority will be granted to new businesses that occupy first-floor spaces with a visible street-front presence, particularly those that complement the existing mix of downtown storefronts and contribute to the strengthening of retail clusters.

  • The ratio of grant funding requested in comparison to the total project cost will be taken into account as an indicator of competitiveness in funding rounds. This means that the level of private investment being proposed relative to the grant request will be considered in the evaluation process.
  • The thoroughness of the business plan, as well as the clarity of the description of planned expenses for space enhancement and startup costs, will also be evaluated of eligibility.


  • In the fiscal year spanning from July 2023 to June 2024, the total available pool of funds for the Storefront Upfit Grant is $90,000. This grant opportunity provides reimbursement grants, and the amount can go up to $15,000, depending on the business’s location and intended use.
  • To promote equitable development within the downtown area, there is a Diverse Business Booster (DBE) available, amounting to $2,500. This booster is accessible to businesses with ownership of 50% or more by individuals who identify as belonging to any of the following groups:
  • Minority
  • Female
  • LGBTQ+
  • Veteran
  • A person with a disability

Application Process

  • Application Submission: Applicants are required to submit the application provided via the link below. Additionally, they must provide supplementary components as outlined in the Phase Two Submission Requirements, which include a business plan, cost breakdown, timeline, and other relevant documents. DRA staff, along with an external review committee, will carefully assess all submitted materials and may contact applicants for clarification if needed.
  • Decision: The final determination regarding the approval or denial of the grant will be made by DRA staff.
  • Grant Agreement: Approved applicants will need to execute a Grant Agreement, outlining that the grantor commits to funding the authorized project, and the grantee agrees to complete the project in accordance with the approved application.
  • Reimbursement Process: Following the installation and successful completion of the project improvements specified in the agreement, the grantee is required to submit all invoices to the grantor.
  • After the grantor verifies the accuracy of the invoices, confirms the project’s completion, and ensures that all other grant requirements have been met, reimbursement will be issued.
  • These additional grant requirements include an onsite visit by DRA staff once the work is finished, the submission of three (3) high-quality images showcasing the completed space, and the provision of a quote from the grantee regarding the upfit and the grant’s impact on their business.
  • The images and grantee quotes will be utilized in press releases and communications related to the grant.

Click here to apply.

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Theme : Challenge
Applicant Country : United States
For more information : Downtown Raleigh Alliance

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