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Innovation Through Competition

The NYC Department of Small Business Services (SBS), along with partners New York City Economic Development Corporation and New York City Business Assistance Corporation, are proud to announce that 2014 applications are open for the Neighborhood Challenge Innovation Grant competition! Neighborhood Challenge grants support innovative and catalytic projects that solve small business challenges, generate community and economic impacts, and receive local recognition upon implementation. The competition seeks to make multiple investments of up to $100,000 in community-based development organizations that spark new ideas and approaches to common neighborhood and commercial corridor issues. Past projects have included storefront improvements in historic districts, public art installations, district-wide marketing campaigns, business attraction initiatives, and public space activation.

Business Improvement District (BID):

  • Incorporated BIDs located in New York City with an annual assessment less than or equal to $2,000,000.
  • Demonstrated timely submission of audited financial statements and annual reports to SBS in the previous fiscal year.

Community-based Development Organization (CBDO):

  • Incorporated as a nonprofit in New York State and be in compliance with the New York State Charities Bureau.
  • Operate in the five boroughs of New York City.
  • Have a dedicated economic development budget under $2,000,000.
  • Note: This competition is open to community-serving organizations that do not have a dedicated economic development budget but are able to demonstrate an implementation partnership with a CBDO and a plan for community and economic impacts.

Grant awards will be made for the boldest ideas in three project budget size categories: $30,000; $60,000; and $100,000. Small and/or new organizations are encouraged to propose project budgets that are within their capacity to realistically execute.

Project Concept
Neighborhood Challenge project concepts should focus on one of the following work areas:

  • Business Attraction, Retention, and Growth, including strategies to assist in the recruitment of new businesses or growth of existing businesses, as well as raising the entrepreneurial profile of commercial districts.
  • District Planning, Streetscape Improvements, and Public Space Activation, including district planning and management initiatives, as well as open space, streetscape, and storefront improvements that enhance the urban design, public use, or economic viability of a commercial area.
  • District-wide Marketing and Events, including programs, events, and art installations that improve the image and vitality of a commercial district, as well as strategies which use print, electronic media, or multimedia efforts to promote retail corridors.
  • Property Activation and Development, including real estate development plans, paired with an immediate private space activation component, that target underutilized properties which show promise as sites for near-term and long-term economic activity.

Projects should aim to leverage additional talent, partners, and resources outside of City support to achieve wide-ranging outcomes. Projects will be evaluated with the following criteria:

  • Innovative vision and approach to neighborhood small business challenges.
  • Ability for the proposed project to serve as a catalyst that jumpstarts new neighborhood initiatives or activities that have the potential for long-term sustainability and positive economic impact.
  • Organizational capacity and ability to implement project within a one year period.
  • Viability of the proposed budget.

Application Process
The application process consists of three phases:

  1. Project Concept Phase: Eligible organizations are invited to submit project concept applications by Wednesday, November 5, 2014, at 5:00 p.m. via the Neighborhood Challenge website. Respondents can submit more than one project concept. Project concepts include:
    • A project concept summary that outlines the project’s Vision, Implementation, and Outcome/Impact.
    • Project budget (line item description of project costs and related expenses).
    • A list of the staff members and consultants that will oversee the execution of the project and their roles.
  2. Application Phase: Based on the strength of the project concept, eligible organizations will be invited to submit a full project proposal by mid-November. Full project proposals include:
    • A 10-slide (maximum) PowerPoint presentation (submitted in PDF form) illustrating the project’s Vision, Implementation Timeline, Outcome/Impact, Partnerships, and Budget.
    • A list of members of the Board of Directors, staff, and volunteers of the applicant organization(s).
    • Relevant letters of support or proof of additional resources being added to the proposed project.
    • A FY2014 actual operating budget of the organization.
    • A FY2015 approved operating budget of the organization.
  3. Finalist Pitch Competition: Selected finalists will be invited to present their projects to a panel of judges in early December. Neighborhood Challenge awardees will be chosen by the selection panel, which will consist of experts in the fields of commercial revitalization and local economic development.

Please direct any questions about Neighborhood Challenge to