The Creative Space Assistance Program supports creative organizations facing temporary or permanent displacement or new commercial leases at higher and unaffordable rates. Funds may be used for revenue-generating space improvements, lease payment stipends, and gap funding for creative space purchases. 

The Creative Space Assistance Program is a result of the Economic Development Department’s Response to the Music and Creative Ecosystem Omnibus Resolution, which identified the lack of affordable space for creatives as a priority concern for Austin.

Fiscal Year 2023 Program Guidelines 

The FY23 Creative Space Assistance Program provides $1,500,000 million for arts nonprofits, for-profit live music venues, performance spaces and art galleries, and independent artists leasing commercial studios.

The following guidelines include community and commission feedback gathered from 20212022 for program improvements. Please contact Kim McCarson with any questions.

Eligibility

Eligible Applicants 

  • Select for-profit creative businesses as allowed by commercial property definitions below
  • Arts-focused nonprofits designated as a 501(c)(3) per the Internal Revenue Code or State of Texas nonprofit organization
  • Independent artists seeking relief for short-term or month-to month studio commercial lease expenses
  • Must be 18 years old to apply

Eligible Commercial Properties 

  • Must be located in the Extraterritorial Jurisdiction (ETJ)
  • Must be appropriately zoned for intended use as a commercial creative space
  • For-profit commercial property must meet EDD’s definition of either a “Live Music Venue”, “Performance Venue / Theater”, or “Museum / Art Gallery”, including: 
    • Live Music Venue: An establishment where live music programming is the principal function of the business and/or the business is a live music destination, and where the venue clearly establishes the ability of an artist to receive payment for work by percentage of sales, guarantee or other mutually beneficial formal agreement for every performance. A live music venue is a destination for live music consumers, and/or its music programming and is the primary driver of its business as indicated by the presence of at least five (5) of the following: 
      • a) Defined performance and audience space; 
      • b) Mixing desk, PA system, and lighting rig; 
      • c) Back line; 
      • d) At least two of the following:  
      • (i) sound engineer,  
      • (ii) booker,  
      • (iii) promoter,  
      • (iv) stage manager, or  
      • (v) security personnel; 
      • e) Charges cover charge to some music performance through ticketing or front door entrance fee; 
      • f) Markets specific acts through show listings in printed and electronic publications; 
      • g) Hours of operation coincide with performance times; or 
      • h) Programs live music at least five nights a week. 
    • Performance Venue / Theater: An establishment whose principal function and mission is to present live performances, plays, live music, film screenings, or other performances of artistic work produced by an artist, or arts and culture organization, accessible by public audiences.
    • Museum / Art Gallery: Facility with a principal function and mission to exhibit, present, and/or sell artistic work in a variety of media produced by an artist, artist collective, or arts and culture organization, accessible by public audiences. City-run/owned, State-run/owned, or Federally-run/owned facilities are not eligible.
  • The receipt of grant funds by for-profit businesses may result in a significant tax liability. It's the responsibility of the awardee to consult with their tax advisor to understand how they may be impacted. 

Eligibility Requirements

  • Must provide evidence of commercial property site control, including an existing fully executed lease or lease offer. 
  • Must demonstrate an urgent need for creative commercial property assistance due to adverse impacts caused by rising costs since March 2020, including:  
    • Displacement, relocation, and/or forced to close, OR   
    • Imminent threat of displacement and relocation, OR  
    • Lease renewals at substantially higher rates, OR 
    • Pending lease renewal at substantially higher rates, OR 
    • City of Austin Code related improvements, OR 
    • Revenue-generating leasehold improvements to support sustainability
Ineligible Applicants
  • City of Austin, State of Texas, or Federally run/owned facilities
  • Applicants who do not fit the eligibility definitions
  • Applicants younger than 18 years of age
  • City of Austin employees
Award Amounts
  • Awards of at least $5,000 to a maximum of up to $50,000 paid over a 12-month period
Eligible & Ineligible Expenses 

Eligible Expenses

  • Rent Stipend: Up to 30% of base commercial rent, not to exceed $50,000 over a 12-month period
  • Gap Financing for Property Acquisition
  • Other Space-Related Needs: 
    • Physical and/or acoustical improvements for City of Austin code compliance
    • Displacement-related expenditures including lease, equipment rental/acquisition, and transportation or moving costs
    • Leasehold improvements for increased programming capacity and revenue development

Ineligible Expenses

  • Expenses incurred before March 2020
  • Fundraising expenses, including entertainment, reception or hospitality expenses
  • Salaries
  • Payments to students or interns whose employment is tied to class credit
  • Other operating costs besides rent
  • Purchase of gifts, awards, cash prizes, scholarships, contributions or donations
  • Existing debts, fines, contingencies, penalties, interest or litigation costs
  • Travel costs
  • Property taxes or any other tax, with the exception of retail sales taxes
Scoring Matrix
Category Criteria Available Points

Access to Services

Applicant lacks access to services, including:

  • Applicant and/or project located in a Qualified Census Tract (QCT)
  • Access to traditional funding support
  • Healthcare coverage for employees

Up to 30 Points

Compelling Project Need

The applicant demonstrates the funding will address a compelling organizational need.

Up to 20 Points

Urgency

The applicant demonstrates the level of urgency of need according to the following categories:

  • Most Urgent: Applicant displaced or requires immediate relocation, lease renewal, or renovation in 6 months to avoid displacement
  • Urgent: Applicant not displaced, but requires immediate relocation, lease renewal, or renovation in 7-13 months to avoid displacement
  • Less Urgent: Applicant not displaced, but requires immediate relocation, lease renewal, or renovation in 14-20 months to avoid displacement

Up to 15 Points

Co-Location

Applicant Demonstrates co-location / sub-leasing opportunities, including:

  • Co-location has served or advanced the applicant’s mission, cultural use, or artistic production
  • Applicant has either increased access to affordable space to other creatives, or has benefited from increased income
  • Co-location has improved programmatic efficiencies/collaboration for the applicant

Up to 15 Points

Community Benefit

Demonstrates impact to the community through such elements as mission, programs, events, and relationships.

Up to 5 Points 

Equity

The applicant demonstrates that it’s committed to equity and to serving historically underrepresented communities in Austin.

Up to 20 Points
Event History & Programming Advancement Demonstrates the quality and advancement of its event history and artistic programming & services over time. 5 Points
New Recipient

The applicant has not received previous City funding, including:

  • Arts Space Assistance Program
  • Creative Space Assistance Program
  • Creative Space Disaster Relief Program
  • Austin Live Music Venue Preservation Fund
  • Austin Legacy Business Relief Grant
  • Austin Small Business Relief Grant
  • Austin Non-Profit Relief Grant
10 Bonus Points
Required Documentation
  • Eligibility: 
    • Confirmed commercial property address within Extraterritorial Jurisdiction (ETJ)
    • Executed lease or lease offer
    • Nonprofit Internal Revenue Service designation letter as a 501(c)(3) or a State of Texas nonprofit incorporation letter
    • Form 990 (nonprofits) or tax return (for-profits) for last completed fiscal year.
  • Assurances and disclaimer: 
    • Signed Assurances Document provided by City of Austin
    • For Profit Disclaimer provided by City of Austin
  • Gap financing and facility improvement projects: 
    • Deal structure / proof of financing for acquisition
    • Cost estimate for acquisition or construction budget
    • Timeline and project plan
  • Commercial property improvements: 
    • Description of project team/contractors
    • Proposed operating/maintenance budget
    • Disbursement of funds disclaimer provided by City of Austin once a permit is secured
Awardee Requirements

Award recipients must commit to the following: 

  • Technical Assistance – Participate in technical assistance or other capacity building support provided by the City of Austin; and 
  • Job Retention – Commit to maintain current employment levels; and 
  • Professional Development – Participate in or host one professional development opportunity for the community in partnership with the City of Austin; or 
  • Career Development – Engage in career development opportunities with Austin area school districts or other entities providing opportunities for K-12 students. 
2020 Program

In April 2020, the Creative Space Assistance Program was adapted into the Austin Creative Space Disaster Relief Program with a $1 million budget to address the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the creative industry, as directed in Austin City Council Resolution No. 20200423-040. Click here to view the program dashboard, which displays such information as the number of applications received, profiles of applicants (minus personal information), and approval and denial rates.

2019 Program

The 2019 Creative Space Assistance Program was funded at $750,000 and awards were based on a competitive process and decided by authorized criteria laid out in the program guidelines, with priority given to organizations facing mounting space pressures. Awards were evaluated and recommended by a community panel representing the arts, commercial music, and real estate / finance. Click here to read the 2019 CSAP Update Memo to Austin City Council.

2018 Program

The 2018 Art Space Assistance Program provided grants to nonprofits facing permanent displacement, those previously displaced, or those facing lease renewals at substantially higher rates. Financial assistance was available for tenant improvements and rent stipend. Click here to read the 2018 ASAP Update Memo to Austin City Council.