Rahm Emanuel’s Neighborhood Opportunity Fund came into action four years ago with the Robin-Hood style goal of spreading out the wealth from downtown developers to struggling Chicago business owners.
In a news conference on Tuesday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced changes to Emanuel’s plan. The fund has been compared to tax-increment financing in recent years for just creating another massive fund for the mayor to dispense. In addition to the criticisms, Lightfoot expressed issues with some of the planning with the original NOF.
“It was a matching grant. And, when you don’t have the funds, you can’t match,” the mayor said. According to the Chicago Sun-Times.
The changes allow business to repay 100 percent of the project’s total cost as long as Chicago residents run the business. Other changes include offering business owners coaching services, access to design and construction advisers and program “concierges”, the Sun-Times reported. Additionally, grants will be handed out twice a year instead of just once.
The mayor’s Invest South/West program plays a role in the changes. The 10 South and West side neighborhood included in her Invest South/West project will get top priority in grant applications.
“NOF will allow funding for up to 50 percent of a project’s construction costs, with the remaining 50% being given for local residency of the business owner and their commitment to hire residents locally,” Planning and Development Commissioner Maurice Cox said in Tuesday’s meeting.
The Neighborhood Opportunity Fund has about $190 million in committed funds and $68.2 million in collections, according to the Sun-Times.
[Sun-Times] — Jacqueline Flynn