Community Planning & Economic Development

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Neighborhood business districts are essential elements of any great city. Minneapolis is no different. Neighborhood businesses provide important goods and services for residents, contribute to high quality urban living, and are critical to the health of the local economy. In 2007, the Minneapolis City Council approved the Community Planning and Economic Development Department’s (CPED) recommendation to cultivate and sustain Minneapolis’s commercial districts through systematic programming through the Great Streets Program.  

Great Streets program resources are available in 116 areas where adopted City policy supports commercial activities. The Minneapolis Plan for Sustainable Growth categorizes these areas as (1) commercial corridors, (2) commercial nodes, (3) LRT station areas, and (4) activity centers. The Great Streets Program prioritizes its resources according to need, by classifying each area as intervene, support, or monitor based on several measures of economic health and opportunity.

   Intervene  areas that are experiencing weak development interest or significant obstacles to attaining the City’s commercial development or business investment goals
 Support   areas showing signs of strength, but that remain fragile and have some barriers to market development and business investment
 Monitorareas with strong market development and business activity

There are substantial differences between each business district. As a result, commercial revitalization and preservation takes multiple forms and varying levels of targeted public investment. Each district is unique with its own set of opportunities and challenges and requires a customized approach. When districts use multiple tools and tap a variety of resources, revitalization efforts can succeed. The City of Minneapolis offers Business District Support Grants, Façade Improvement Matching Grants, Real Estate Development Gap Financing Loans, Small Business Technical Assistance Grants, and Small Business Loans under the Great Streets Program.

Through targeted investments using these tools, the program produces tangible results and leverages private investment. For example, in the first six years, the façade program stimulated nearly $4 million of investment in commercial façade improvements. Grant administrators worked on 393 façade improvement projects that provided $1.2 million in matching grants and leveraged $2.6 million in private investment. In seven years, the City provided nearly $3 million in strategic real estate development gap loans to eight projects worth approximately $22 million. In 2012, the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) awarded the Minneapolis Great Streets Program its top honor for Neighborhood Development Initiatives.

For more information, contact Rebecca Parrell, 612-673-5018.

Business District Support Grants (BDS)

Business District Support (BDS) grants fund activities that strengthen neighborhood business districts and build sustainable mechanisms for their ongoing vitality. CPED structured the grant program to provide wide latitude to organizations, so that they are in the position to determine the strategies and initiatives that will best meet the needs and demands of their area. Overviews of grants awarded in 2012, 2013, and 2014 help illustrate the diverse set of activities funded.

The City Council awards grants to community development corporations, business associations, neighborhood organizations, and other entities that have the demonstrated capacity to perform business district development work. The Community Planning and Economic Development Department (CPED) issues an annual Request for Proposals (RFP) each January to solicit proposals.

City Council Staff Reports Recommending Business District Support (BDS) Contracts to the City Council

Open RFP Soliciting Proposal
CPED issued the eighth annual Great Streets Business District Support (BDS) RFP on January 15, 2015. Proposals are due by 4:00 p.m.,Thursday, February 27, 2015.

For more information, contact Rebecca Parrell at (612) 673-5018.

Façade Improvement Matching Grants

Neighborhood business districts are the front door of our neighborhoods. A welcoming, vibrant business district sends a powerful, positive message, just as a poorly maintained or vacant row of storefronts conveys a negative impression.

The Façade Improvement Matching Grant Program works to revitalize and sustain the economic vitality of the city’s commercial districts through public/private investments in façade projects for commercial properties. Façade improvements make an aesthetic impact, improving the appearance of individual buildings and consequently entire commercial districts. Façade improvements can enhance the sense of place and make commercial areas more inviting and interesting places to walk and shop. The City’s façade program helps guide façade projects toward architecturally and historically sensitive improvements that are attractive and functional, helping create a coordinated streetscape.              

Highly visible investments in commercial properties not only improve residents’ and visitors’ perceptions of an area, they also spur improvements by nearby businesses and attract new businesses. Façade improvement matching grants leverage private investment in commercial properties and in many instances are a business recruitment tool. As a resource to new businesses, façade grants can be an incentive for choosing a specific building because of an investment made by the property owner that helps a prospective business see the potential in a vacant space or to help pay for tenant improvements.  

The program is successful. From 2008–2014, the Great Streets façade program stimulated over $2.5 Million of private investment and over $1.5 of public investment in over 339 façade improvement projects citywide. A few recent highlights include the following (these examples periodically change):

How does the program work? What do grants pay for?

The program's Business Guidelines explain how the program works, what types of improvements are eligible in the program, which are not, and other important information about the program. Read this document carefully before you begin planning your project.

Who can apply?

Building owners and commercial tenants (with property owner’s approval) can apply for a Great Streets façade grant if:

1. the façade improvements are for a commercial business or commercial building, meaning it has a retail or office use AND

2. they are located within an eligible business district (pdf)

Some neighborhood organizations also fund facade improvement programs through their Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP) dollars. The Neighborhood & Community Relations website has contact information for all Minneapolis neighborhoods to find out if your neighborhood has a program.

Need design ideas?

The Great Streets Façade Design Guide is a fabulous resource for all commercial property owners and business owners considering façade changes or updates. The encouraged projects listed are eligible for façade grants and the discouraged activities are all ineligible.

For more information

Contact Jimmy Loyd at (612) 673-5026. 

City Council Staff Reports Recommending Façade Improvement Matching Grant Contracts to the City Council

Real Estate Development Gap Financing Loans

The City has gap financing loans available for transformative commercial real estate redevelopment projects or acquisitions located in Great Streets Eligible Areas. The Application Form may be submitted at any time.

Examples of Gap Financing Projects, include:

For more information, contact Rebecca Parrell at (612) 673-5018.

Market Profiles

The City of Minneapolis has access to a wide range of demographic and market data, through a subscription to Business Analyst Online, a GIS-based market data program provided by ESRI.

In 2009, the City created “Market Profiles” or snapshots of the one-mile market area around the 65 neighborhood commercial nodes (see links below, by sector) to provide basic information about neighborhood commercial nodes to community groups and others involved in business district revitalization and retail recruitment. The reports provide basic market information and ARE NOT conclusive or comprehensive market studies. For a good primer on understanding market data and getting started on retail recruitment please see the Community Revitalization Planning Guide focused on neighborhood commercial district retail recruitment produced by the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC).

The City did not create profiles for commercial corridors, LRT station areas, or activity centers because these areas can have significant differences in the geographic range from which they draw a customer base. To request a customized profile for a specific area, contact Rebecca Parrell  612-673-5018 and an appropriate trade area can be determined to fit your needs.

Small Business Technical Assistance Program (B-TAP)

The Small Business Technical Assistance Program funds local non-profit business consulting organizations to deliver technical assistance services to Minneapolis businesses and entrepreneurs.

Business Loans


The City recognizes that businesses, both small and large, are the backbone of our economy. There are variety of loan programs to provide support to existing, expanding, and new businesses, including the popular Two-Percent Loan Program, financing building improvements and equipment purchases.

Business District Revitalization Case Studies

City Council Reports Related to Great Streets

Other Resources

Commercial District Advisor, an online resource for sharing information, ideas, and strategies for successful commercial district revitalization around the country.


Last updated Jul 7, 2015