Diversity doesn’t happen by accident. The Downtown Memphis Commission (DMC) believes that a downtown for everyone must be created by everyone. Therefore, the DMC established an innovative set of policies and programs designed to proactively invite women and people of color into the process of building downtown and tackling commercial development projects. The DMC’s incentive toolkit was revised and expanded in several key ways in an organized effort to ensure that the people engaged in this work reflect the full diversity of our community:
- A new Pre-Development Grant program was established to help aspiring and emerging developers. This program provides early-stage grant funding that lowers upfront costs when exploring potential development opportunities. Pre-development work includes preliminary architectural designs, financial modeling, market analysis, and environmental testing.
- The Retail Tenant Improvement (TI) Grant was created to help close the financial gap for tenant build-out and encourage entrepreneurs to open retail and service businesses in downtown Memphis.
- The Downtown Development Loan was reimagined to better address the needs of emerging developers. Following years of minimal use, this permanent loan product is now a key part of the capital stack for several commercial redevelopment projects led by women and people of color. A very low-interest rate and flexible underwriting make this a powerful tool to help emerging developers attract traditional bank financing.
- For projects that receive any incentive from the DMC, 25% or more of the total project budget, both hard and soft costs, must be spent with MWBE-certified businesses per our EBO policy. This policy directly increases spending with women and minority service providers, general contractors, and subcontractors. Since 2010, this policy has produced over $228M in direct spending with local MWBE businesses.
Building Downtown: DEI Toolkit for Commercial Development
Downtown Memphis Commission