The fund was established in 2016 and distributes money generated by development fees in the Loop, the core of downtown Chicago, to commercial projects in underserved neighborhoods in Chicago’s West, Southwest, and South Sides. Last year, the city added additional funding for technical assistance to grant recipients, and this year, the city added architectural services to those covered in the technical assistance category in order to bring the city’s Design Excellence principles to all projects.
The technical assistance grants are only available to projects with a budget of $250,000 or less, but they cover all design services work from the pre-design through construction administration.
The NOF program offers architects the chance to get more involved with community development projects in underserved neighborhoods in the Chicago area, which has long suffered from economic inequity between the city’s predominantly white, Black, and Latino areas.
According to Block Club Chicago, over 325 businesses applied for NOF grants this year, and the city announced last month that 32 businesses won a total of $5.4 million in funding.
Though the NOF program was created by former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, currently Mayor Lori Lightfoot has reworked the program to make it easier to use and more helpful to businesses in need. The overhaul was part of Mayor Lightfoot’s INVEST South/West initiative, which is coordinating hundreds of millions of dollars of public investment in neighborhood cores in the city’s West and South Sides. As of now, the program is focusing on main streets in the Auburn Gresham, Austin, Bronzeville, Greater Englewood, Greater Roseland, Humboldt Park, New City, North Lawndale, South Chicago, and South Shore neighborhoods.
Applications for architects wanting to participate in the NOF program this year will be received through July 10, 2020, and are available here.