Main Street Iowa Challenge Grant


The Main Street Iowa Challenge Grant is a grant program provided by Main Street Iowa (MSI) and the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) for brick-and-mortar building projects in designated Main Street districts. Highly competitive applications include:

  • Comprehensive building rehabilitation projects that provide increased business, housing or job opportunities.
  • Projects that incorporate quality design and preservation-based strategies.
  • Projects that support local revitalization efforts and stimulate additional district investment.
  • Projects that are well planned and achievable within the two-year contract period.

Eligible Applicants 

Main Street Iowa programs in good standing and in compliance with all contractual requirements from previously awarded funds, if any, may apply on behalf of a property or project within the designated district.  The local Main Street organization MUST be the applicant on behalf of local property owners. Awards will be made to the applicant Main Street organization, hereafter referred to as the Grantee, for disbursements to locally designated grant beneficiaries. Applicants may request funding for eligible one-time project expenses incurred and expended within the eligible funding period.

NOTE:  Previous Grant Beneficiaries (projects/buildings) who are completing a large, phased project may apply for additional Main Street Iowa Challenge Grant funding so long as the scope of work authorized in the previous award is complete and all funds dispersed. 

Eligible Projects

  1. Rehabilitation and/or restoration of significant commercial properties within the designated Main Street district.  This can include, but is not limited to:
    • Exterior rehabilitation (front, rear and side facades)
    • Interior rehabilitation (first floor commercial and upper story housing)
    • Structural repairs and building system improvements
    • Single specific phase of a large rehab. The project must have a specific defined focus and clearly identified scope of work, with commitment to future phases demonstrated.
  2. Compatible new construction including building additions with first floor commercial and upper floor(s) commercial or residential. Razing of an existing structure to allow for new construction will not be considered an eligible use of funds.  
  3. Multiple properties connected by a common need or issue. Multiple property projects might include but are not limited to: the removal of inappropriate slipcovers/siding materials; façade restoration for several buildings; activation of a series of highly visible rear entries; or installation of an elevator and common hallway linking several buildings to support upper story development. Programs considering a Multiple Properties application are strongly encouraged to discuss the project with Main Street Iowa Staff before submission.  

Eligible projects must be within the designated Main Street district.

Ineligible Projects

  • Projects involving public government buildings or religious facilities.
  • Projects involving building demolition or deconstruction.
  • Projects involving first floor storefront residential use (including short term/overnight lodging accommodations).

Rehab/Construction Standards

Main Street Iowa staff will review building plans and specifications for design appropriateness. Plans must meet all local code and design review requirements.

Applicants should be aware of the Iowa Green Streets Criteria and provide Green Streets Best Practice checklists to appropriate project contractors and/or subcontractors.

If a property is listed or deemed eligible for the National Register of Historic Places or part of a National Register District, the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation must be followed.  

Match Requirement

A (1:1) match is required for all projects. In-kind contributions are permitted for no more than 35% of the project match. In-kind match must be documented, professional services. Volunteer efforts and staff hours are important but cannot be used to meet match requirements for any project.  At least 65% of the project match must be in cash.

The match requirement may include necessary project “soft” costs for professional service i.e., architectural or engineering fees directly related to the project/property.   

No previous expenditures of any kind will be considered as a suitable cash match for a project. This statement applies to both new applicants and additional submissions for phased projects.      

Eligible Expenses

Site preparation work, surveying, construction materials, construction labor, architectural services, engineering services, building permits, building inspection fees, and interest accrued on a construction loan during contract period.

Ineligible Expenses

Acquisition, deconstruction, or disposal of property; site improvements (sidewalks, parking lots, etc.); furnishings; appliances; accounting services; legal services; loan origination or other financing costs; syndication fees and related costs; developer fees.

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