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City Announces 'Up the Block' Partnership with Flats Chicago

 Flats Chicago co-founder and partner Jay Michael.
Flats Chicago co-founder and partner Jay Michael.
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UPTOWN — A new partnership between the city and booming North Side real estate brand Flats Chicago aims to support small businesses with rent reductions, navigating city red tape and developing their business plans.

The city announced Thursday the first "Up the Block" partnership with Flats Chicago, whose holdings include buildings throughout Uptown and Edgewater.

Up the Block, according to a news release, is "an innovative partnership" between the city and developers "to activate vacant sites, revitalize communities and support small businesses." Flats Chicago, a branch of Cedar Street Co., will be the city's first partner in the initiative.

The city's partnership with Flats is called #FLATSProject, and "will bring up to four unique new small businesses, selected with input from the local community, to different vacant storefronts within existing development sites in the Uptown and Edgewater neighborhoods."

Flats will provide each business with up to $50,000 in services "to help accelerate their success," the city said. Flats will also provide businesses that sign 5-year leases with a free year of rent, legal, marketing and networking help.

Interested businesses can apply at www.flatsproject.com and businesses will open by summer's end.

The idea of the Up the Block program is to match developers with area small businesses who receive an initial rent reduction and technical support to get their business started, "while the property developer or landlord gets a new long-term tenant to fill vacant space," the city said.

Flats and Cedar CMO Jay Michael said in a statement that, "we believe that small businesses are the lifeblood of our communities."

"They are the local producers of meaningful goods and services, and the creators of jobs and opportunity. Each business owner helps create the foundation that our neighborhoods are built on,” he said.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel called small businesses "the backbone of Chicago’s economy."

"By pairing local businesses with property developers in the Uptown and Edgewater neighborhoods, we are encouraging their growth while investing in the community and its residents,” he said in a statement. “The Up the Block program will build upon Chicago’s success in creating new local jobs."

The city pledged to work with developers to identify public funding, including tax increment financing and small business improvement funds, provide developers with technical assistance, support entrepreneurs with marketing, help business owners navigate city red tape and have students from Northwestern University help with developing business plans.