Downtown Improvement Grant Program


Tennessee Main Street communities and communities that have participated in the Tennessee Downtowns program in Rounds 1-7 and have an active Design Committee are eligible for a grant from the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD) for downtown improvements. Grants of up to $300,000 will be awarded to organizations that can illustrate the need for improvements and the ability to execute an effective design plan for building facades, wayfinding signage, courtyard improvements, gateways, streetscapes, lighting and sound, and electric vehicle charging.

For additional information on the Downtown Improvement Grant program, see the application webinar.

Download Webinar

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Eligible projects include:

Façade improvements - exterior improvements to for-profit or nonprofit commercial businesses including signage, painting, awnings, lighting, windows, doors, entryways and other approved activities. At least 50% of the proposed project must be façade improvements.

Gateway improvements – Physical improvements including landscaping and signage at the gateway(s) to your downtown.

Streetscape improvements – Physical improvements such as planters, benches, lighting, sound system, landscaping that improve your streetscape and unify the district.

Courtyard improvements – Physical improvements to prominent courtyards in your downtown including seating, landscaping, lighting, and signage.

Wayfinding signage – Signage that is consistent with your community’s brand that directs tourists to places of interest in your town.

It is expected that all applications will include façade improvements and can include any or all of the other activities. The Downtown Improvement Grant is reimbursable and all expenditures must take place within the timeframe of the grant period as designated by the grant contract. The grant period begins when a contract is signed and returned to TNECD which is expected to be in January 2024.

Applications are due August 15, 2023. Grantees may use up to five (5) percent of the funding for grantee administration and five (5) percent for design services. Additionally, the grant requires 25% matching funds. All expenditures must be requested by reimbursement requests on official forms provided by TNECD. All applicants must illustrate the ability to manage this program.

Important Dates

June 1st, 2023 - Application Process Opens

June 13th, 2023 - Application Webinar (Will be recorded)

August 15th, 2023
 - Applications Due

September 26th, 2023 - Grant Recipients Announced

January 2024
 - Contracts Issued

Downtown Improvement Program Application Process

Required Files: Budget Form (Must be completed and uploaded with application). Use the "Professional fee, grant and award" line to estimate labor, design and administrative costs. Use the "Supplies" line to estimate the cost of building supplies and items to be purchased.

Complete Application: An application should be prepared that completes the documents in this package, and includes photos documenting the need for the project. “Soft” commitments from property owners should also be included. These can be letters of support, intention to apply statements, etc.; check with TNECD for additional options.

Procurement: All contractors must be competitively procured according to state or local procurement standards, whichever is more restrictive. Minority and female contractors should be invited to bid. Bids must be opened publicly by the review committee, and minutes must be kept of the meeting. Bids should be awarded to the lowest, most responsive bidder. If a community elects not to use the lowest bidder, justification must be made to and approved by TNECD.

Downtown Improvement Grant Admin Webinar Recording (2023)

Download 2024 Admin Webinar

Downtown Improvement

Applications will be reviewed according to the following criteria:

Project Need (20 points): Documentation of the need for the project and how it fits into a plan for downtown development. Photos are important to show project need and points in the section are awarded based on the photos and the description of need (20 points available). Photos should be of of buildings, streetscapes, courtyards or gateways that will be part of the program as well as photos of the entire area.

Address how this program will meet the design plan or design guidelines for your community, foster the design aspect of the downtown development plan, and what architectural impact the project will have on your downtown community.

Project Impact (25 points): How will this project benefit the downtown, the community, the Tennessee Main Street or Tennessee Downtowns program, individual businesses, etc.? Will additional funds be leveraged to increase the impact of the program? Will it create jobs, recruit or expand businesses?

Project Plan (20 points): Describe the plan for the project including how subgrantees will be selected, how the subgrantees will be managed, how the grantee will ensure all regulations and rules are followed, etc.

Project Feasibility (10 points): Evidence that the project can begin quickly and be completed within eighteen months of contract approval and that those managing the program are qualified.

Community Support (10 points): Evidence in the application that the community is supportive of the project through leveraging of additional funds, letters of support, etc. Send a maximum of five letters from the local community and local elected officials. Letters from state representatives and state senators are not necessary.

Economic Ranking (15 points): Points will be distributed as follows: Tier 4 – 15, Tier 3 – 10, Tier 2 – 5, Tier 1 – 0

Tennessee Main Street communities will receive five (5) additional points on their application.


Award and Announcement

Downtown Improvement Grant Applications will be reviewed by the staff of the Rural Development division and TNECD’s Grant Committee. All contracts will be sent directly to grantee for signature and returned to TNECD for final signatures and approvals. Contracts must be signed by all parties before work can be performed.

Communities participating in this grant program will be required to submit proper documentation of all grant expenditures. Failure to follow specified uses or accounting requirements may result in loss of program participation. All grantees will be required to attend training.


Contact Information

312 Rosa L. Parks Ave., 27th Floor
Nashville, TN 37243

Phone: 615-806-3185