NOTICE OF FUNDING AVAILABILITY
The White Box Grant program helps property owners bring vacant commercial first-floor spaces into compliance with current state and local building code, fire safety code, and accessibility requirements, thus creating a functional "white box" space ready for customization and occupancy by a business. The program provides a matching grant of $25,000 to $75,000 for first-floor, interior renovation expenses to meet current codes required to receive a certificate of occupancy, as demonstrated by stamped architectural or engineering drawings. Building owners are required to provide a 30% match and must either occupy the space as a business owner or actively market the space for lease at no more than the current average per square foot rate for similar condition properties in the area.
The White Box Grant program is funded with American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars. Therefore, grant funds are subject to federal requirements. The program is subject to a three-year period of compliance, reporting, and annual inspection by the City of Toledo. The grant is collateralized by a springing personal guaranty and a promissory note, that will only be binding if the property owner sells the property without approval from the City of Toledo three years after the effective date.
The White Box Grant Program application is open from June 2022, to September 1, 2022. Applications must be submitted online via the Zoom Grants platform. No paper or emailed applications will be accepted. Upon closure of the application, period proposals will be reviewed and graded by the City’s Incentive Advisory Committee (“IAC”). Upon completion of review, the IAC will recommend the top-scoring applications to the Mayor for funding until all funds have been awarded. The Mayor shall have the sole and absolute discretion to award funds.
Eligible applicants, whether an individual or organization, must meet the following criteria:
- Applicant is in good standing with applicable governmental entities (i.e. current on federal, state and local income tax, property tax, utilities, code violations, fees)
- Applicant owns the building for which they are applying
A building may be eligible for more than one grant if the building contains multiple vacant commercial spaces, each to be occupied by separate businesses. Eligible buildings must:
- Have no code violation citations
- Contain a first-floor commercial vacant space
- Be located in a low-to-moderate income census tract within the city of Toledo
Use the map below to determine if your building is located in a low-to-moderate income census tract.
A building's eligibility is determined by actual use, not zoning codes. Eligible uses include:
- Commercial use (non-residential)
- Industrial use
- Mixed-use (integrated first-floor commercial and upper floor residential uses)
Buildings with an exclusively single-family residential or multi-family residential use are not eligible.
The White Box Grant program provides funding to bring vacant commercial spaces up to code with the goal of receiving a certificate of occupancy. Eligible expenses address deficiencies in meeting building code, fire code, or accessibility requirements, as outlined below.
Interior improvements needed to meet the requirements of the Ohio Building Code (OBC) for the intended use, or at a minimum a Business (B) or Mercantile (M) use, including:
- Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) replacement or upgrades to meet the requirements of the OBC and the Ohio Mechanical Code for the intended use.
- Plumbing rough-in, to meet the requirements of the OBC and the Ohio Plumbing Code.
- Electrical services upgrades or modifications to meet the requirements of the OBC and the National Electrical Code, including, but not limited to NEC 230 Services.
- Lighting rough-in, including required exit and egress lighting fixtures, but excluding other fixtures.
- Repair or replacement of drywall, plaster or masonry walls, excluding finishes.
Interior improvements needed to meet the accessibility requirements of Chapter 11 of the Ohio Building Code, including:
- Restrooms, excluding fixtures and finishes, except OBC required accessible toilet and sink.
- Accessible Route compliance.
Fire and smoke protection systems and features needed to meet the requirements of the Ohio Building Code for the intended use, or at a minimum a Business (B) or Mercantile (M) use, including:
- Sprinkler System
- Fire Rated Walls
- Stairway Enclosure
- Fire Alarm System
All upgrades must comply with zoning and building codes. Any expense incurred prior to the execution of the White Box Grant program, or work performed without required permits, is ineligible. When system improvements benefit the entire building, any reimbursement will be for the prorated share of the first-floor vacant commercial space identified in the application, based on its percentage of the total building square footage.
A minimum of three quotes is required for each eligible expense. Quotes must conform to federal Davis Bacon Act requirements, be on contractor letterhead, and clearly identify the scope of work and estimated cost. Contractors shall have required licensing, bond, and insurance, and all work shall be performed according to applicable codes (i.e. Ohio Revised Code and Toledo Municipal Code). Projects shall be completed within 12 months of the Effective Date of the White Box Grant Program Agreement.
Required documentation includes:
- Architectural and engineering drawings that identify the code deficiencies to be addressed
- Proof of Commercial Building Insurance Policy
- Historical and Environmental Form (Provided)
- Operating Agreement
- Board resolution authorizing authority to enter into agreements
- Commitment letters for funding sources
- Quotes (three quotes from a qualified contractor for every item on the expenses table)
- Current photos of the building’s vacant commercial first floor space
- Drawings, renderings, elevations (if available)
- Occupancy plan, which must be one of the following:
- A marketing plan that demonstrates their intention to actively market the renovated space for commercial or industrial use.
- A letter of intent from a business to occupy the space.
- A statement of self-occupancy by the building owner.
Application Process and Timeline
Applications must be submitted online via the Zoom Grants platform at https://www.zoomgrants.com/zgf/whitebox. No paper or emailed applications will be accepted. The proposed schedule for this Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) is:
- Public Notice June 2022, published in The Blade announcing NOFA.
- Public Notice June 2022 published in The Sojourner’s Truth and La Prensa announcing NOFA.
- Issue Whitebox Program NOFA: Wednesday, June 2022.
- Applications due in Zoom Grants: Thursday, September 1, 2022.
- All applicants notified of grant decision at completion of scoring.
The Department of Economic Development, in its sole discretion, reserves the right to modify the above dates; suspend, amend, or modify the provisions of this NOFA, to waive selected requirements or limitations herein, to reject all proposals, to negotiate modifications of proposal, or to award less than the full amount of the funding available; all in its sole and absolute discretion.
The Department of Economic Development will conduct an initial screening of applications to determine if all submission requirements are met. Any incomplete applications will be rejected. Eligible applications will be reviewed by the Toledo Plan Commission to ensure appropriate approvals have been obtained prior to the application being approved. If applicable, the Department of Neighborhoods will conduct a historical and environmental review in accordance with CDBG guidelines. Members of the IAC will review, evaluate and score each eligible application. For selected projects, DOED will execute an agreement. Projects must be completed and requests for reimbursement received 12 months after an agreement is signed.
Upon closure of the White Box Grant Program application, proposals will be reviewed and graded by the City’s Incentive Advisory Committee. The IAC will score applications using a specific evaluation criteria. Based on an application’s score, the IAC will then recommend the top-scoring applications to the Mayor who may fund the award in his sole and absolute discretion.
Likely to attract additional investment to a disinvested area. A score of one (1) will be awarded to projects located in an area that has experienced significant recent investment. A score of five (5) will be awarded to projects is located in an area that experiences continued disinvestment.
Improved Building Safety or Accessibility
The proposed improvements will improve the fire safety or accessibility of the building. Projects will be scored as follows: One (1): no Improvements; Two (2): fire or accessibility are moderately improved; Three (3): fire or accessibility are significantly improved; Four (4): fire and accessibility are moderately improved; Five (5): fire safety and accessibility are both significantly improved.
Tenant is secured or property owner will self-occupy. A score of five (5) will be awarded to applications that include a signed letter of intent.
Applicant Experience and Capacity
Likely to complete project within 12 months. A score of one (1) will be awarded to applicants with previous experience with building rehabilitation. A score of five (5) will be awarded to applicants with significant related experience and multiple successful redevelopment projects.
The subject property is a building constructed prior to 1970 or has historical or design significance. Projects will be scored as follows: Zero (0): building was built post 1971; One (1): building was built prior to 1970; Two (2): building was built prior to 1950; Three (3): building was built prior to 1930; Four (4): building was built prior to 1910, Five (5): building was built prior to 1900.
Will the award substantially leverage more investment in the space, including tenant improvements, than the required matching amount of the grant?
Diverse Property Owner
A score of five (5) will be awarded to projects in which the majority property ownership is held by a certified MBE/WMBE/Vet/EDGE.
A score of five (5) will be awarded to projects in which the majority tenant ownership is held by a certified MBE/WMBE/Vet/EDGE.
White Box Grant Agreement
If the application is approved, the City will enter into a White Box Grant Agreement with the applicant to establish the terms and conditions by which eligible work can be reimbursed. Any work performed prior to execution of the White Box Grant Agreement is not eligible for reimbursement. In addition to the White Box Grant Agreement, the applicant will be required to grant a springing personal guaranty and a promissory note, that will only be binding if the property owner sells the property without approval from the City of Toledo three years after the effective date.
Project Completion and Reimbursement
The project is defined as the eligible work to be performed on the subject vacant space. To qualify for reimbursement, the project must be complete within twelve months of the effective date of the White Box Grant Agreement. When requesting reimbursement, the applicant must submit copies of all invoices, matching proof of payment by a cancelled check, and copies of permits and inspections. The Department will review the information for accuracy and completeness and process the reimbursement payment. Applicants have the option to submit for a total of two requests for reimbursement.
Applicants will need to provide a photo of the building’s completed first-floor vacant commercial space, and a copy of the certificate of occupancy. Grant funds will be disbursed by check. Grant recipients are required to complete an informational survey both prior to and after funding. The City will release the personal and/or corporate guarantee and promissory note three years after the effective date.
Please email your questions to Sandy Spang at firstname.lastname@example.org