By: Kyle Norman



The City Grants of Milwaukee are the future of Milwaukee neighborhood development. By giving entrepreneurs access to these grants, property owners have the chance to rebuild their designated properties. The City grant program holds four different grants: the Signage Grant Program, the Façade Grant Program,  the Storefront Activation Grant Program, and the  Retail Investment Fund. Ken Little, a neighborhood business development manager at the City of Milwaukee Department of City Development, described each program through a webinar hosted by LISC Milwaukee. 

During the webinar, Little first introduced the Signage Grant Program. He explained  that all signage projects that are submitted for this grant, must have 50% of eligible expenses for the sign used, along with needing to have a minimum project cost of 2,000 and a maximum of 2,500. Eligible signs for this grant are as follows, channel signs, awning signs, monument signs, neon signs, custom signs, and hanging signs. An ineligible sign for this grant program would be an internally lit box sign.

Next, Little introduced the Facade Grant Program. Like the sign grant, 50% of eligible expenses must be used. The minimum project cost is $2,000, while the maximum can be up to $5,000 per storefront facing the public street and/or a commercial corridor facade. Eligible expenses for this grant are new windows, doors, awnings, and major facade alterations. This grant is great for businesses who need to vamp up their exterior facing public streets. 

For more extensive redevelopment  work, The Storefront Activation Grant is a great program. Similar to the first two, the Storefront Activation Grant Program has a 50% eligible expenses used. These first three grants have a 50% eligible expense, because they are matching dollar-for-dollar grants. The Storefront Activation Grant has a limiting $10 per square foot, so to maximize this grant of $25,000, the property has to be at least 2500 square feet. Eligible expenses are as listed: ceilings, base flooring, rough carpentry, drywall, electric, plumbing, and HVAC. There are two restrictions for this grant; one being, it cannot be combined with a Retail Investment Grant; and two being, it cannot be for a new commercial space. These grants are used for revamping existing commercial spaces, not building new ones. 

Finally, Little described the Retail Investment Fund. This grant only allows 20% of all Eligible expenses. It is for profit retail projects along commercial corridors and applicants can either own or lease the property. Eligible expenses are the following: buildout, architecture, engineering, furniture, fixtures, and equipment. The main difference between the Retail Investment Fund, and the rest of the grants, is that it’s tied to job making opportunities. For every full-time employee that gets added due to this project,  $5,000 will be granted. This program has  a maximum of up to $50,000 dollars, meaning 10 new employees hired as a result of the project. They also must all be Milwaukee residents and have been on the job 45 days prior to reimbursement. 

All of these grants are reimbursement grants. This means the recipient must begin work on the projects and hold onto all paid invoices and/or receipts to submit to the City.  Once the paperwork is submitted, the City of Milwaukee will reimburse the recipient with the grant dollars. To make sure one will be reimbursed with grant funding, make sure all projects are approved prior to the start of work. 

Overall, the making of these grants are used to revamp the commercial properties of the City of Milwaukee. Ineligible properties surrounding these grants are pawnshops, non-profit agencies, schools, day care centers, taverns, liquor stores, gun shops, and cash-for-gold businesses. The City Grant Programs offer business owners and building owners the opportunity to support their build-out in a way that is tailored to their creative ideas. This in turn also helps the City of Milwaukee by making the city improve its economy, aesthetics, residents’ quality of life, and tourist attraction. If you would like to watch the webinar about these grant programs,  please click on this link or use the one below. If you would like to learn more about the City grant programs or apply, please visit the City website linked here. 

City Process Session 2- Business, License, Permits, and Grants Ken Little,


Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!