Mayor Muriel Bowser hands LaToya Liles the keys to her newly owned business, Tsunami Hair Studio located in Northeast. (Ja'Mon Jackson/The Washington Informer)
Mayor Muriel Bowser hands LaToya Liles the keys to her newly owned business, Tsunami Hair Studio located in Northeast. (Ja'Mon Jackson/The Washington Informer)

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development recently announced the inaugural awardees of the Commercial Property Acquisition Fund — a program that provides eligible businesses down payment assistance for the acquisition of commercial property in the District.

The first two awardees include Tsunami Hair Studio in Ward 7 and The Spice Suite in Ward 4 moving to Ward 5. Through the Commercial Property Acquisition Fund, D.C.-based businesses that have historically faced barriers in obtaining financing can become commercial property owners. 

The $4 million investment serves as part of Bowser’s efforts to support local businesses and part of her $40 million Legacy Initiative to keep longtime residents and businesses in the District.  

“When residents and businesses own property in D.C., they stay in D.C.,” Bowser said. “Owning property offers stability, it helps business owners think bigger about their businesses and it is a critical tool for helping Black and Brown residents build wealth. With our $40 million package of Legacy Initiatives, we can be more [focused and assist in] keeping longtime residents and businesses like LaToya’s in D.C.”  

Bowser highlighted the story of LaToya Liles, owner of Tsunami Hair Studio, awarded a $150,000 grant to support the purchase of a building in Ward 7 on Benning Road NE where the studio is located. 

The funds allowed Liles to close on the property transaction on Friday, March 18, 2022, and allowed her to realize the dream of owning a business and the property. 

Liles has been in the cosmetology industry for 13 years and has rented the second floor of her building for seven years before she could buy the property. During the pandemic, she used her extra time to learn about loans, grants and other opportunities as a business owner in the District. 

The Spice Suite, owned by Angel Gregorio, was awarded $287,500 in down payment assistance to acquire commercial property in the Langdon neighborhood. Ten other businesses have received conditional awards totaling nearly $4 million in funding and are expected to close on their own commercial properties this spring.    

The Commercial Property Acquisition Fund counts as the first grant program in the District of Columbia created to help entrepreneurs and small business owners who face barriers to accessing capital to purchase their commercial properties. 

The fund provides down payment assistance through grants up to $750,000 or 25% of the total acquisition cost, whichever is lower, to eligible businesses looking to maintain and expand their operations by acquiring commercial property in the District. The $4 million Commercial Property Acquisition Fund is administered by the largest Black-led bank in the country, City First Bank, with its co-headquarters located in the District.   

Qualified businesses must be Equity Impact Enterprise-eligible, meaning that they satisfy the criteria for Resident-Owned Business, Small Business Enterprise and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise. The business must also be independently owned, have no more than 100 employees at application submission and generate less than $15 million in revenue.    

“Mayor Bowser has challenged us to find new ways to support BIPOC businesses to not only survive but to thrive right here in Washington, D.C.,” said Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development John Falcicchio. 

“The Commercial Acquisition Fund was created to break down a barrier that many of our local entrepreneurs face and gives them a fair shot at building wealth and employing more D.C. residents. Our commitment is that our comeback will be more equitable as we forge ahead together,” he said. 

Mayor Bowser has prioritized monumental efforts that propel business owners forward in the Fiscal Year 2023 [FY23] Fair Shot Budget, including an additional $4 million investment for the Commercial Property Acquisition Fund. She has also doubled down on her investment in the Inclusive Innovation Equity Impact Fund, which will address the gap in access to capital for Eligible Businesses that would not otherwise receive early-stage funding through conventional financing. Both funds count as part of the Mayor’s $40 million Legacy Initiative, a package of programs and investments that have been earmarked to help longtime District residents and businesses stay in D.C. 

Other investments in the Legacy Initiative include:

  • Heirs Property Legal Services: $1 million to assist multi-generational families in maintaining their family property after the original homeowner passes on; 
  • Black Homeownership Fund and Strikeforce: New $10 million fund to increase access to homeownership for longtime Black D.C. residents; 
  • 2% Senior Property Tax Cap: Lowers the cap on annual increases in property taxes for seniors from 5% to 2%; 
  • Single Family Residential Rehab Program: Additional $3 million over two years to help low-income homeowners fix and maintain their home; 
  • FloodSmart Homes: $2.6 million to help residents in flood prone areas, especially in Wards 7 and 8, retrofit their homes to reduce risk of damage; 
  • Home Weatherization & Lead and Mold Remediation: $10 million to make energy-efficiency improvements and remediate lead and mold hazards to improve both the health and comfort of residents. 

The mayor remains committed to supporting the small and local business community’s recovery, growth and development. 

Since the COVID-19 public health emergency began in March 2020, the District has made available $274 million to support small and local businesses and nonprofits through various funding opportunities including the Bridge FundDC Small Business Microgrant Program, the Small Business Resiliency Fund, the Legacy Business Supplemental Microgrant ProgramStreatery Winter Ready Grant ProgramGreat Streets, Neighborhood Prosperity Fund and the Locally Made Manufacturing grant. 

Applications are currently open for the FY22 Neighborhood Prosperity Fund and the FY22 Locally Made Manufacturing grant programs and the deadline to apply for both grants is Friday, March 25, 2022 at 4 p.m. 

The Bridge Fund application deadline is Thursday, March 31, 2022.  

For more information, go to obviouslydc.com

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