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State-Designated Cultural District Application Information & Instructions

Applications are now closed.

Program Overview

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s (DCEO) Office of Minority Economic Empowerment (OMEE) is launching the State-Designated Cultural Districts Program to establish districts throughout the State that build on existing strong cultural identities and promote economic development.

The purpose of this program is to:

  • Promote distinct historical and cultural communities;
  • Encourage economic development and entrepreneurship;
  • Encourage the preservation and development of historic and culturally significant structures, traditions, and languages;
  • Foster local cultural development and education;
  • Provide a focal point for celebrating and strengthening the unique cultural identity of communities; and
  • Promote growth and opportunity without generating displacement or expanding inequality.

Through a Notice of Designation Opportunity (NODO), DCEO plans to select five (5) State-Designated Cultural Districts in 2023 and five (5) in early 2024. Prospective State-Designated Cultural Districts must have a distinct, historic, and cultural identity. Once selected, DCEO will make available $3 million for Districts to apply for funding. The funding opportunity will be tailored to fit the needs of individual Cultural Districts and will broadly support the goals of the program to foster economic development and help communities preserve their unique cultural identities. 

Eligible Applicants

Municipalities or 501(c)(3) organizations located in Illinois are eligible to apply to be a State-Designated Cultural District if the applicant:

  • Demonstrates the community seeking certification has been historically impacted and is currently at risk of losing their cultural identity because of gentrification displacement, or the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Demonstrates a history of economic disinvestment.

Multiple municipalities, 501(c)(3) organizations, and other units of local government (counties, townships, special districts, school districts) are encouraged to collaborate on applications with one (1) eligible entity serving as the primary applicant. 

Priority will be given to applicants that have:

  • Development plans that include and prioritize preservation of local businesses and retention of existing residents/businesses.
  • Education framework in place with a vision of food justice, social justice, community sustainability, and social equity.

Registration and Pre-Qualification

To be eligible for the program, applicants must have an active GATA registration and be qualified on the GATA Grantee Portal at the time the application is submitted.  The portal will verify that the entity:

FAQs and Information Webinar

A Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document with questions about the process is available here.

Applicants are encouraged to attend a webinar. A recording of the webinar from September 26, 2023, is available.

State Cultural District NODO Webinars

  • Tuesday | September 26, 2023 | 2:00 – 3:00 PM | View the recording
  • Wednesday | September 27, 2023 | 1:00 – 2:00 PM | Register
  • Monday | October 2, 2023 | 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM | Register
  • Thursday | October 5, 2023 | 10:00 – 11:00 AM | Register
  • Friday | October 6, 2023 | 2:00 – 3:00 PM | Register

Team OMEE will be on hand to share more information on the NODO and answer your questions.

Application Instructions

Applicants must fill out the documents outlined below and complete the Smartsheet Application Form by October 23, 2023 at 5:00 p.m. Late submissions will not be reviewed or accepted.

As part of the application, please submit the following documents within the Smartsheet Application Form:

Public Act 102-0628 created the State-Designated Cultural Districts program as described in 20 ILCS 605/605-1057. Rules for this statute can be found the Illinois Administrative Code tit. 14, §1.615 (2023).