"Every night before I rest my head; See those dollar bills go swirling ’round my bed."

So sang Patti Smith in the composition Free Money on her critically acclaimed 1975 debut album, Horses.

That’s a tune that cash-desperate real estate developers and project owners may have found themselves humming during the current credit crisis. But it may be more than just wishful thinking – – or wishful singing – – at least for certain projects in Cleveland.

In 2008, the City of Cleveland instituted its Vacant Property Initiative Fund which makes available up to $1,250,000 for acquisition, demolition, remediation, construction and some soft costs for non-residential projects. Big-box, mall projects and most tax-exempt uses are excluded from the program.

The money takes the form of a 6% one-year loan, but up to 40% of the loan amount is forgivable depending upon project size. A bonus 5% of loan forgiveness is available if certain green sustainability standards are met. Take out financing must be in place at the time the loan is made.

Certain vacancy or underutilization standards must be met to be eligible. Approval of the Mayor’s office and Cleveland City Council along with a recommendation of the City’s CDC is also required.

Like any program there are a host of requirements imposed on the borrower: prevailing wages, MBE/FBE and local hiring compliance, job creation and retention benchmarks and a shared first priority mortgage lien among them.

Despite the attached strings, the chance to get as much as $562,500 of free money for acquisition, construction and remediation should have project developers singing along with Patti Smith.