‘Pop Ups’ Help Fight Blight From Vacant Storefronts

Cities are using “pop-up” stores and exhibits to fill empty storefronts in helping struggling downtowns attract more customers and fight blight.

The pop-up stores can either be an inviting display or serve as a temporary store that is there for a few days, weeks, or even months. Some big-name retailers have used pop-ups to make a brief splash.

Pittsburgh city officials recently debuted “Project Pop Up: Downtown,” with plans to fill up to 15 storefronts with “pop-up” exhibits and stores that would begin operating in the fall, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. The city is providing artists or operators start-up grants ranging from $1,500 to $10,000.

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl says he hopes the pop-up program will improve the appearance of the city’s downtown and stimulate the real estate and business market there, giving shoppers more reason to visit.

Similar pop-up programs have launched in New York, San Francisco, Seattle, and other cities as a solution to improving empty storefronts.

For example, Seattle faced a 20 percent vacancy rate in parts of its Chinatown and Pioneer Square neighborhoods when it turned to pop-ups. Business groups attracted about 25 pop-up storefronts to fill the vacant spots, with everything from art exhibits, boutique stores, and even a pinball machine museum.

“You clean up some of the aesthetic problems, and other problems tend to fall into line,” says Matthew Richter, manager of Storefronts Seattle, who says the pop-up stores helped to increase visitor traffic as well as decrease crime.

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