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Mayor Wu announces SPACE grant awardees, introducing new local businesses to Downtown storefronts

Mayor Michelle Wu today announced 24 small businesses that will be receiving American Rescue Plan (ARPA) funding through the Supporting Pandemic Affected Community Enterprises (SPACE) Grant to help them expand their businesses and move into vacant storefronts Citywide. This first round of SPACE Grants will distribute $2,830,000 in an effort to bring more foot traffic into major commercial districts, revitalize Boston’s downtown, bring vibrancy to City neighborhoods, and close the racial wealth gap. Of the businesses receiving grants, 75 percent are minority-owned and more than 60 percent are women-owned.

In addition to awarding businesses grants to open their new premises, the City is providing each business with wrap-around services to assist grantees with lease negotiation, accounting, taxes, regulatory compliance, marketing, and employee-ownership to ensure long-term success. The Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce and the Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM), are also offering a free one-year membership to their organizations. 

“The SPACE Grant program connects entrepreneurs with the extra capital and technical assistance they need to be vibrant, successful additions to our downtown and our neighborhoods,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “These first 24 recipients each have an incredible story of entrepreneurship, from immigrants sharing their culture through food, to daycares filling a need seen in many of our communities. This program at its core is a win-win for Boston, filling vacant storefronts while helping our small businesses thrive.”

“The hundreds of applications we received for the SPACE Grants, many of which were from Black and women-owned businesses, demonstrate how Mayor Wu and the Administration are responding directly to the needs of our small business constituents,” said Segun Idowu, Chief of Economic Opportunity and Inclusion. “Because of the intentionality of our team and our partners, the first round of awardees help to fill a gap in our neighborhoods and our Downtown, which will lead to increased foot traffic and patronage for the existing businesses in the area. By eliminating barriers to opening a new storefront or expanding one's business, and by providing wrap-around, long-term technical assistance, the Wu Administration is ensuring the long term success of local entrepreneurs.”

"The SPACE Grant program is revitalizing our main streets after COVID-19 and giving 24 entrepreneurs the resources and support they need to thrive. It is crucial to support our small businesses as they are the fabric of our neighborhoods, providing local jobs and vibrancy in our economic corridors," said Councilor Brian Worrell, Chair of the Committee on Small Business and Professional Licensure. "These grantees are a diverse reflection of the entrepreneurial talent we have in Boston and I am grateful for the administration's leadership and collaboration to uplift entrepreneurs within every neighborhood."

Overall, the Mayor’s Office of Economic Opportunity & Inclusion received more than 350 applications from across all neighborhoods for this round of funding. SPACE Grant recipients were chosen based on the strength of their business plan, employment plan, co-operative structure, and letters of support from local community organizations or leaders. The 24 recipients are each receiving between $40,000 and $200,000 over three years depending on their business needs. Recipients come from a wide range of industries including retail stores, art studios, daycare centers, bars, and food vendors. Some of the recipients are using the funding to lease their first brick-and-mortar store, while others are expanding to second locations. A full list of grantees is below:

"The SPACE Grant from the Mayor's Office provides essential support to expand the Dorchester Food Co-op's community footprint in advance of our opening later this summer," said Dorchester Food Co-op’s co-founder, Jenny Silverman. "The Co-op, with over 1,600 household member-owners, has deep roots in Dorchester and the surrounding neighborhoods. Funds will be used to help get our store ready to serve all shoppers seeking access to affordable, healthy and culturally-relevant food choices. For that, we are endlessly grateful.”

“Thanks to Mayor Wu’s SPACE Program, I can pursue my 40-plus-year dream of starting Anh55, a sustainable clothing company that provides beautiful well-made clothing to people of different ages and genders, made right here in Boston, while providing economic development to woman refugee and ethnic minority weavers and embroiderers. Mayor Wu and her office didn’t just stop there. Their TA support will give me and other SPACE Program grantees all the support we need to become successful,” said Anh Sawyer of Anh55. “To me, this is the true making of an American dream, where our dreams are not just for ourselves, but also for others as we strive to be good stewards of our communities, our cities, the environments, and generations after us. Thank you, Mayor Wu and everyone in your SPACE Program.”

“The Boston SPACE grant has been crucial for the opening of Dani’s Queer Bar, as it provides the much-needed financial support to create a safe and inclusive space for the community. With this grant, we offer resources that celebrate diversity, promoting a sense of belonging and acceptance for all patrons,” said Thais Rocha of Dani’s Queer Bar. “By being a recipient of the Boston SPACE grant, Dani’s Bar can become a powerful catalyst for social change, driving positive impact and fostering a stronger, united LGBTQIA community in the city.”

A total of $9 million has been budgeted for the SPACE program. Of that amount, $6,170,000 of dedicated ARPA dollars remain to support additional small businesses in subsequent funding rounds. Applications for the next funding round will open on Monday, October 2nd. This second round of funding will also focus on filling vacant storefronts across the City with diverse local businesses.

Grantees are also being supported with small business resources through local banking institutions including Eastern Bank, Bank of America, and Citizens Bank; tenant improvement contributions offered by participating landlords; and local residential investments via Mainvest’s crowd-investing platform made possible by President Obama’s Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act. Wraparound services will also be provided by the Small Business Technical Assistance Program through the Mayor’s Office of Economic Opportunity & Inclusion’s Small Business team.

Mayor Wu announced the 24 recipients at the Downtown BID’s office in Downtown Crossing. 

“The BID has been a great partner for our SPACE Grantees and our office by working with many of the business owners on finding the perfect space for their business in downtown Boston,” said Alia Forrest, Director of Business Strategy for the Mayor’s Office of Economic Opportunity & Inclusion

“Downtown Boston’s post-pandemic revitalization will accelerate through the Wu Administration’s announcement today of the first cohort of SPACE grantees, many of whom are poised to bring economic vitality to vacant storefronts in our central business district,” said Michael Nichols, President of the Downtown Boston BID. “This program has lowered the barrier for businesses representing the rich diversity and entrepreneurial ingenuity of our city to enter the downtown market, and the impact of these retailers will be felt for years to come.”

The SPACE Grant program was first announced at the end of 2022, following the release of the City’s Downtown Revitalization Plan.  While Boston aims to activate spaces in all of our neighborhoods, the City is seeking to ensure its Downtown core is a vibrant destination 24/7, every day of the week. Earlier this month, Mayor Wu announced a residential conversion program to incentivize the conversion of underutilized office buildings in Downtown Boston.

More information on the SPACE Grant program can be found here.

ABOUT THE ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY AND INCLUSION CABINET

The vision of the Economic Opportunity and Inclusion Cabinet is of a resilient, equitable, sustainable, and vibrant city that centers people and creates opportunities to build generational wealth. The Cabinet consists of nine City departments and programs, including Business Strategy, Cannabis Equity, the Office of Consumer Affairs and Licensing, the Office of Economic Opportunity and Inclusion, Global Affairs, the Office of Nightlife Economy, the Office of Small Business, the Office of Supplier and Workforce Diversity, and the Office of Tourism, Sports, and Entertainment