Retail Enhancement Programs

The DIA supports the City’s downtown revitalization objectives and through community workshops and input from numerous stakeholders, has determined that retail and restaurant recruitment and art galleries and entertainment themed businesses are beneficial throughout the Downtown area, and a priority within the area shown on the Retail Enhancement Program map.

Further, within the Core Retail Enhancement Areas, two Targeted Food and Beverage Districts have been established (“FABREP Districts”) to create compact, safe, and walkable dining districts. Sidewalk Enhancement Grants are also authorized within the FAB REP Districts. Collectively, these geographies are referred to as the Retail Program Areas and four distinct incentive programs have been established under the Retail Enhancement Grant umbrella specific to each of these areas.

All Retail Enhancement programs will be structured as grants with clawbacks subject to maintaining performance requirements during a defined compliance period but are often interchangeably referred to as Forgivable Loans. To streamline documentation, DIA has chosen to eliminate Loan agreements and recorded security instruments in favor of grant agreements with applicable clawback language. All eligible properties are located within the boundaries of either the Northbank or Southside CRA (the “Retail Program Areas”). As such, individual awards will be funded from the Retail Enhancement Program funding of the applicable CRA or from the available Forgivable Loan or Retail Enhancement Program funding within the Downtown Economic Development Fund.
The DIA will allocate funds on an as needed basis to provide recoverable grants to any property or business owner with qualified projects to assist with paying some of the costs associated with renovating or preparing commercial space for retail, salon, restaurant, gallery or other similar use for occupancy as identified more completely elsewhere in these guidelines.


  • Retail tenants for these purposes are identified as: 1) businesses that sell products on a transactional basis to end consumers; 2) food and beverage establishments; or 3) providers of services targeted towards the general public (other than health care, legal, or financial advisory).
  • Businesses operating exclusively or primarily on a membership or appointment basis and not welcoming walk-in customers, or providing goods and services targeted principally to other businesses, shall not generally meet this definition, unless approved on a case-by-case basis.
  • Business eligibility for may be further limited as outlined in each program guidelines found below.
  • The project must be consistent with the Downtown Master Plan and the Downtown Zoning Overlay.
  • Locations should be ground floor, street facing, and designed to attract the general public except in the case of second floor restaurants directly accessible from street which may qualify.
  • All rehabilitation work and design features must comply with all applicable city codes, ordinances, the established Downtown Development Review Board Guidelines and the Downtown Zoning Overlay.
  • Work must follow plans and specifications submitted to DIA as part of the program application.
  • Work must be completed within the time frame established by the DIA for each project
  • All applicable licenses and permits must be obtained, including all permits required by the City of Jacksonville’s Planning Department, Development Services Division.
  • All costs of enforcement of any clawback shall be the responsibility of the applicant.
  • Sales reporting shall be a condition of receiving any Retail Enhancement Programs incentive other than the Stand-alone Sidewalk Enhancement Grant.

Funds may be used to retain and improve existing businesses or to recruit new businesses in the geographic areas identified in each Retail Enhancement Program. The following identifies specific goals for the Program:
  • Expand the local property tax base by stimulating new investment in older, Downtown properties;
  • Expand state and local sales tax base by increasing sales for new or existing shops; and
  • Attract new and retain existing business to/in Downtown by decreasing renovation costs incurred for modernizing retail space in older, commercial properties in the Retail Program Areas.
  • Establish new retail businesses in new properties deemed to be making significant contributions to growth within an identified area of importance within the Retail Program Areas.
To advance recruitment and marketability, the recoverable grant (“Grant”) provides an incentive to improve the interior appearance and functionality and the utility of street level storefronts for the purpose of attracting retail and restaurant owners/investors and to draw more commercial activity to the Downtown area.
  1. Desired Retail Businesses for the Retail Program Areas
    The following is a list of desired retail and other businesses in the Retail Program Areas. The list on the following page is not all-inclusive but serves as a guide only:

    Desired Retail Businesses List:
    Apparel Stores Including Accessories (purses, scarves, hats)
    Toy Stores
    Art Supplies, Framing Stores
    Specialty Food Stores/Delicatessens
    Coffee/Tea Shops
    Book Stores
    Kitchen/Home Accessories
    Entertainment Venues
    Art Galleries
    Specialty Retail Apparel such as Bridal, Formal Gown, Tuxedo, Costume
    Pet Store and Supplies
    Gift Stores
    Stationary Stores
    Small Appliances
    Sporting Goods
    Jewelry Stores
    Shoe Stores
    Office Supply Stores
    Grocery/Butcher/Fresh Seafood/Produce
  2. Program Funding Uses
    1. Remodeling, renovation, rehabilitation, installation, and additions to the interior and exterior of the commercial building are eligible for Grant funds. Grant funds shall be used to modify and improve buildings and shall not be used for normal maintenance or repair.
    2. The ground floor of mixed-use projects improving multiple floors can qualify for funds; provided the ground floor will be used for retail and only renovations to the ground floor are part of the eligible renovation or build out scope.
    3. Generally, renovation projects must exceed $50,000 before DIA will consider the project for grant funding.
    4. Grantee must remain in the location for three (3) years and must create or retain two (2) or more full- time equivalent jobs (which may include the owner operator) during the term of the agreement for a minimum of thirty-two (32) operating hours per week during which the doors must be open at all times.
    5. Existing retailers who need to modernize the location or business owners at the end of their lease term who are considering moving from Downtown can qualify for grant funds.
    6. Applicants proposing to use Grant funds to help relocate from one Downtown building to another are not eligible to receive Grant funds unless the proposed move is necessary for business expansion that includes job creation, involuntary displacement from current space that is unrelated to financial or operating disputes, or similar circumstances.
    7. Applicants proposing to construct new buildings are not eligible under this program, unless expressly identified otherwise elsewhere within these guidelines.
    8. Other non-eligible projects include adult entertainment venues, single-serving package stores, business-to-business companies, non-profit and government agencies.
    9. Eligible Grant expenditures include (among others as may be determined in underwriting):
      1. Interior demolition or site preparation costs as part of a comprehensive renovation project.
      2. Permanent building improvements, which are likely to have universal functionality. Items including but not necessarily limited to demising walls, exterior lighting, code compliant restrooms, electrical wiring to the panel, HVAC systems.
      3. Improvements to meet Fire and Life Safety codes and/or Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.
      4. Exterior improvements including signs, painting, or other improvements to the outside of a building.
      5. Sanitary sewer improvements.
      6. Grease traps.
      7. Elevator Installation which services the retail.
    10. Ineligible Grant expenditures include (among others as may be determined in underwriting):
      1. Temporary or movable cubicles or partitions to subdivide space.
      2. Office equipment including computers, telephones, copy machines, and other similar items.
      3. Renovating space on a speculative basis to help attract new tenants. (Note: This provision can be waived pursuant to the recommendation of the REPD committee and approval by the DIA Board).
      4. Moving expenses
      5. Working capital
  3. General Retail Enhancement Grant Requirements
    Applicants will be required to execute a grant agreement and other security documents, including personal guarantees, as may be deemed necessary. The Grants shall be recoverable and amortized over a period of three (3) years. The principal amount of the Grant will fully amortize over a period of three (3) years at a rate of 33.33 percent each year. If the grantee does not default on the Grant terms during the required three (3) year period, the Grant will be closed on the third anniversary date.

A completed application signed by the applicant(s) must be provided to DIA Staff and will serve as the basis for the staff report to be presented to the Retail Enhancement and Property Disposition Committee (“REPD”) of the DIA Board. With the application, each applicant must provide the following, unless stated otherwise elsewhere in these guidelines:
  1. Evidence that the applicant is prepared to do business by including with the application the following required items:
    1. Concept and target market
    2. Advertising/marketing plan
    3. Source of cash/start-up capital
    4. Summary of management team’s skills and experience related to the proposed business
    5. Number of job positions created (will require a commitment to be maintained through the compliance period)
    6. Days and hours of operation (will require a commitment to be maintained through the compliance period)
    7. Three-year operating pro-forma and cash flow analysis
    8. Design for the storefront and interior
    9. Plan for merchandising (inventory levels, brands)
  2. A detailed written description and scaled elevation drawing depicting the size, dimension, and location of the improvements and modifications, with samples when applicable.
  3. A legally valid and binding new lease for a period of at least three years with use restricted to an allowable retail use. The lease may be fully negotiated, but not yet executed, but the executed form of the lease will be a requirement of funding
  4. A fully negotiated agreement and construction budget with a licensed and qualified contractor.
  5. If the tenant is paying for the improvements, the lease must provide for a minimum of free rent, discounted rent, or equivalent thereof in lieu of the property owner having to share the cost of the improvements.
  6. Unless the property owner is the applicant, a notarized statement from the property owner authorizing the construction and improvements.
  7. If the property owner is the applicant, a copy of the property tax bill or deed to confirm ownership of the property.
The primary criteria for approval for any retail incentive will be the feasibility of the business plan. A successful business plan will be the one that conveys the most promising combination of relevant experience, financial feasibility, product and market research, growth potential and job creation.

Project Evaluation Criteria and Allocated Points
  1. Business Plan (see point breakdown below) – (up to 40 points)
    1. Plan shows good short-term profit potential and contains realistic financial projections (up to 10 points)
    2. Plan shows how the business will target a clearly defined market and its competitive edge (up to 5 points)
    3. Plan shows that the management team has the skills and experience to make the business successful (up to 10 points)
    4. Plan shows that the entrepreneur has made or will make a personal (equity) investment in the business venture (up to 10 points)
    5. Number of FTE job positions created in excess of the required two (2) positions (up to 5 points)
  2. Expansion of the local property tax base by stimulating new investment in existing Downtown properties (up to 5 points for properties five years and older and an additional 5 points if the property is a historic property (local landmark status or contributing structure status) – maximum of 10 points)
  3. Expansion of the state and local sales tax base by increasing sales for new or existing shops (up to 5 points)
Minimum score of 30 points out of 55 points possible is required to have the proposed project referred to the REPD Committee for funding consideration.
All completed applications will be reviewed by DIA Staff and if a project is determined to be eligible, presented to the REPD Committee of the DIA Board. The REPD Committee will make recommendations based on the DIA staff’s evaluation of the project prepared utilizing the Project Evaluation Criteria below. A minimum score of thirty (30) points must be obtained by the applicant in staff review in order to be eligible for presentation to the REPD Committee. Recommendations of the REPD Committee will be considered at the next regularly scheduled monthly meeting of the DIA Board for approval or denial of the application. Notification of Grant funding approval or denial will be sent to the applicant by the DIA staff within two business days following the DIA Board Meeting.

Applicants will be encouraged during the Grant review process to reuse, rehabilitate or restore historic architectural elements to retain the charm and character of older buildings and incorporate design principles sensitive to neighboring building structures.
  • Applicant shall complete and submit application form with all required supporting documents to the DIA staff. Processing of the application will not commence until the application is deemed complete.
  • DIA staff schedules a meeting with applicant to review the project.
  • DIA staff will review the project and provide comments to the applicant relating to any application requirement deficiencies.
  • If the application requirements have been met, the DIA staff will evaluate the project utilizing the Project Evaluation Criteria and present a staff report summarizing the application, business plan, project budget, and recommended Grant amount to the REPD Committee for review and approval.
  • If the application and Grant amount is approved by the REPD Committee, resolution, term sheet, and staff report will move forward for consideration at the next regularly scheduled DIA Board meeting.
  • DIA Board approves, modifies, or rejects the recommendation of the REPD Committee. If approved or modified, DIA staff is directed to work with the Office of General Counsel to prepare a grant agreement, utilizing the form approved by the DIA and other applicable security documents or guarantees as may be considered necessary for signature by the applicant. The agreement shall identify the approved scope of work, terms of compliance, and amount of the Grant.
  • Applicant or contractor(s) must secure a building permit and approval from the Downtown Design Review Board for the complete scope of work, and contractors must be registered with the City. Use of JSEB contractors in accordance with Section 126 will be a requirement in each grant agreement.
  • Upon completion of the project and final approvals of all required inspections, the applicant may request reimbursement of eligible expenses. Reimbursement for improvements will require proof of payment (e.g., canceled checks, lien waivers, contractor affidavit).
  • Following a request for reimbursement payment in accordance with the approved disbursement schedule, or upon completion of the project and final inspection and acceptance by the DIA, a one-time lump sum payment will be processed for approval and payment by DIA staff.  The payment request will be processed within thirty (30) business days from receipt of the reimbursement request and all supporting documentation as deemed necessary.
  • Prior to reimbursement, the applicant must hold a current occupational license to do business in the City.

Up-front or limited “progress” payments may be available subject to Board approval based on applicant’s willingness to provide a personal guarantee and a business plan score of 48 or higher.






*All program applications include the DIA's Project Profile Assessment Form (PPA Form). Both the PPA form and the program application must be complete prior to submitting the information to the DIA. Thank you for your cooperation.