Downtown Arts and Cultural District Incentives

Norfolk City Council has designated an area to be incorporated in the Downtown Arts and Design District, commonly known as the NEON District.  This program offers incentives for the provision and formation of arts and cultural sites. Incentives are restricted to Qualified Art Organizations as described below.

The purpose of establishing the Downtown Arts and Cultural District is to increase awareness and support for the arts and culture in the city, which will serve to support and create arts and cultural venues in the city, to increase capital investment and create jobs, and to promote Norfolk as the arts and cultural center of the region. The council believes that establishment of an arts and cultural district will benefit the welfare of the citizens of Norfolk.

Qualified Arts Organization

According to the ordinance, a Qualified Arts Organization is a business for profit or not-for-profit organization that is physically located within the district. The organization will have to add to the range of arts and cultural activities and events that are accessible to the public by exhibiting live performances such as theatre, dance, music, or other imaginative work and/or producing or exhibiting physical works created by, or under the direction of one or more artists, which are intended for unique production or limited reproduction.

Museums or historic sites, the primary mission of which is education, history, or historic preservation, may also qualify as qualified arts organizations. Theaters, including movie theaters, art galleries, dance studios, music venues, performance spaces, art schools and academies, including culinary arts schools and academies, and graphic art design businesses are examples of qualified arts organizations.

Eligible Incentives

Those organizations are eligible for a reduction of their business, professional, and occupational license tax. The reduction will be utilized for a period of three calendar years, including the partial calendar year of certification and the following two full calendar years. The percentage of reduction for each year will be 100 percent reduction in year one, two, and three. The qualified arts organization must be re-certified annually.

BPOL Tax Reduction 

  • Year one is the first calendar year in which a business or organization is certified as a qualified arts organization.
  • The reduction shall apply for a period of three (3) calendar years, including the partial calendar year of certification and the following two (2) full calendar years, or until such earlier time that the business or organization no longer meets the definition of a qualified arts organization, whichever is the first to occur. If a business or organization ceases to be a qualified arts organization or removes its operation from the district during a year in which the reduction applies, the business or organization shall not be qualified or receive the reduction for that year. A business may not receive the BPOL reduction provided herein more than three (3) calendar years, including the calendar year of certification and the ensuing next two calendar years.
  • A qualified arts organization must establish its qualification for the incentives on an annual basis

Permit Fee Exemptions

  • For a period of up to 120 months from qualifying as a qualified arts organization but only for so long as such qualification continues during such 120-month period, a qualified arts organization shall be exempt from any building, electrical, mechanical, plumbing, or site plan application fees that would otherwise be imposed on such qualified arts organization under City Code.
  • This exemption shall apply to the record owner of the property where the qualified arts organization is located or to the business owner if such business is a tenant of the subject property and, in either case, only to a qualified arts organization that is in the process of redevelopment. This exemption may not be applied retroactively.
  • Permit fees are not refundable due to failure to comply with the procedures established by the district administrator at the time of application for any permits or due to subsequent certification as a qualified arts organization. The qualified arts organization must provide written evidence of its certification as a qualified arts organization at the time of application for any permit.

Application Process


  1. Applicant must submit the application (Link provided in right column) to Norfolk Development office and a copy to Downtown Norfolk Council

Economic Development and Downtown Norfolk Council

  1. Verification of:
  2. Business Location
  3. Qualified Business Activities
  4. Business type (New, Divested or Expansion)

City Administration 

  1. Preparation of Certification Memorandum
  2. Sends Memorandum to City Manager for approval

City Manager

  1. Review Certification Memorandum and sign with approval or disapproval.
    1. Return to Development
      1. Forward to Commissioner of the Revenue.

Commissioner of the Revenue

  1. Review to ensure company is current in all taxes and fees owed to city.
  2. Issue tax reduction

If you have any further questions, please contact the Economic Development Department at 757-664-4338.

For Questions or General Inquiries

  • Email:
  • Phone: 757-664-4338


Links and Downloads for Applicants

Important Information

Eligible Applicants certified for BPOL and Permit Fee Reductions should apply for incentives prior to applying for a new or renewed business license and new permits