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We have opened a pilot capital grant scheme to incentivise both property owners and potential occupiers to bring vacant Belfast city centre spaces back into use and support the city centre’s revitalisation.
We have allocated £700,000 to support start-ups, independent retailers, social enterprises and cultural and voluntary organisations to make our city centre offering more diverse and transform vacant spaces to become vibrant once again.
The Vacant to Vibrant capital grant is also designed to improve individual properties, contribute to higher quality streetscapes, sustain jobs and help create new employment opportunities.
Property owners, businesses, social enterprises and cultural and voluntary organisations wishing to renovate or repurpose a vacant space can apply.
Applicants will be expected to contribute a minimum of 10 per cent match funding to the grant if successful and must have the ability to deliver the scheme within nine months of receiving the Letter of Offer.
A property owner wishing to renovate or repurpose a vacant space within the Belfast City centre boundary. Property owner can apply on behalf of themselves and their proposed tenant, as a way to incentivise occupation of their space. They will need to provide evidence and proposed lease arrangements on foot of the improvement works being undertaken (Grants 1 and 2 require a minimum lease period of two years, while grant 3 requires a minimum lease period of 4 months) and have the occupier complete the relevant viability templates to support the proposal. Property owners are encouraged to identify a suitable tenant before applying (and should contact the City Regeneration and Development Team if having difficulties) however applications may be considered from property owners of vacant premises seeking tenants to occupy their premises subject to improvement work being undertaken. These applications will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis however, to incentivise the uptake of the vacant space, it is anticipated that a conditional offer may be made available. If property owners are unable to secure a tenant within 9 months, then they will only be able to access 60 per cent of the total grant available within the relevant funding bracket. Property owners must make every reasonable effort to secure a tenant within this 9-month period, including serious consideration of any matchmaking efforts made through the scheme and accommodation for lease agreements for two years if seeking Grant 1 or 2 or 4 months if seeking Grant 3.
A business or organisation wishing to renovate or repurpose a vacant space within the Belfast City centre boundary. This includes start-up retail, independents, Small and Medium sized Enterprises (SME’s), social enterprise, leisure, hospitality and the cultural and third sectors. Businesses will need to provide proof through provision of a company number and three months bank statements relating to the business. A business or constituted organisation that can be either not-for-profit or community based. If an organisation is a constituted not-for-profit organisation it must supply a signed copy of the organisation’s constitution. It must be signed and dated as adopted by the chairperson at the time or by the current Chairperson to confirm it is your group's constitution. A business or organisation must provide evidence of tenure. For the purposes of the application, we will accept written consent from the property owner through the Property Owner Consent Form template provided but if grant is awarded then we will require a copy of the lease agreement prior to any grant being paid, (Grants 1 and 2 require a minimum lease period of two years, while grant 3 requires a minimum lease period of 4 months).
Only property owners, businesses and organisations which meet the criteria are eligible to apply.
Grants from £2,500 to £25,000 are available to support the occupation of vacant city centre premises.
It is anticipated that the following capital costs will be covered:
The following costs will not be eligible for funding:
You must provide quotes for the capital works and purchases in line with our procurement thresholds. You also need to demonstrate quality assurance and clear commercial viability, evidenced through a robust two-year business and financial plan.
This scheme will only fund proposals for capital works. Capital expenditures are considered to be one-time large purchases of fixed assets, typically used to generate revenue over a long period of time. The grant will not cover any revenue expenditures, which refers to ongoing operating expenses associated with daily operation such as rent, utilities and administrative costs.
These grants will be prioritised for:
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to request an application pack containing the guidance notes, application and relevant templates.
Read the guidance notes, which contain full eligibility criteria and a checklist of all the supporting documentation you need to supply when submitting your completed application form.
Use the template business plan provided to provide information about your business and the financial forecast for occupying the proposed property.
You must complete the Viability templates provided in the application pack commensurate with the grant you’re seeking, including business plan/business proposal, ensuring all relevant areas are populated with information about your business and the financial forecast for occupying the property included within your proposal. This will be assessed by an independent viability assessor to fairly score each application. You must also ensure the property owner has completed the Property Owner Consent Form
Email your application with all supporting documentation to email@example.com
The Vacant to Vibrant pilot capital grant scheme is open until July 2024, or until funding has been exhausted.
Applications will be awarded funding on a first-come, first-served basis.
You may apply until all the available funding has been spent, however, we may close the application process early, depending on the number of applications we receive.
If you need help with the guidance notes or application form, email firstname.lastname@example.org and a member of our team will assist you.
We can support you by email, phone or video call, or, where appropriate, in a face-to-face meeting.
We welcome applications from people of all abilities. If we can help you to apply by making any reasonable adjustments to our process, please let us know.
The application process will include the submission of a business plan/proposal and accompanying financial forecast. Depending on eligibility criteria you may be able to gain assistance with completion of a Business Plan. Find out more information about this application.
Alternatively, you can gain information on how to complete a business plan by visiting NI business info on the Invest NI website and also find included below links to other resources which you may find useful:
Managing business finance during the start-up phase
Business start-up Videos
We encourage all applicants to identify a city centre property that aligns with their needs.
NI Business Info - Commercial Property Finder (link opens in new window) is maintained by Invest NI's Property team and contains detailed information on an extensive range of properties and serviced sites.
There are many other property websites owned by private sector companies. You can find these easily on any search engine.
If you are looking for property in a specific area, it’s also a good idea to have a walk around to spot potentially vacant properties yourself.
Once you find a property that appears vacant, you’ll need to find the landlord or managing agent - try asking people in the neighbouring commercial and residential properties. Otherwise, you will find the property owner’s details on the nidirect land registry (link opens in new window).
We also have resources to help you to start or expand your business.
We will be giving successful applicants access to one-to-one mentoring and workshops to help with business growth and sustainability.
Topics may include:
If you would like to talk to one of our team about the support we can offer your business, register with us or email email@example.com
The Back in Business scheme offers businesses a 50 per cent rates discount for up to two years if they occupy a vacant shop unit.
The concession applies to any business ratepayer who moves into premises which were previously used for retail purposes and have been unoccupied for 12 months or more.
Belfast city centre’s geographical boundary limits extend from Belfast Clarendon Dock in the north east of the city, travelling clockwise parallel to the M3 motorway east to the Short Strand, then in a south westerly direction along the Ormeau Embankment to Bradbury Place in the south of the city, then continuing clockwise in a westerly direction to Broadway Road, following the Westlink carriageway in a north by north westerly direction and finishing at Nelson Street.
No, this scheme is a pilot that we are offering to properties within the city centre boundary only (see city centre boundary map within the Guidance Notes for details).
As the grant is an incentive to occupy currently vacant properties in the city centre, the property must not have been occupied in the 12 months prior to grant application (this does not include meanwhile/pop ups).
You may be eligible for funding if you are diversifying a vacant space within your premises. If you are applying as an existing business diversifying unoccupied space within a property, you will only be eligible for grant levels aligned to the footprint size relating to the unoccupied space you are transforming only.
The grant cannot be used to improve the shopfront of an existing business.
Applicants that have recently occupied a vacant space will not be eligible for the grant. The grant does not fund work that has already taken place or is underway prior to an offer of funding.
Applicants who have signed a lease more than 6 weeks prior to application submission may not apply for the grant.
No, you must use the relevant templates provided and populate with information about your business and the financial forecast for occupying the property included within your proposal, this will assist the independent viability assessor to fairly score each application.