Pop-Up Shop Project
crowd sourcing economic development
It’s no secret that vibrant urban city centers attract people and businesses, but sometimes getting started can be tough. Vacant storefronts aren’t attractive, and businesses shy away from these spaces because there aren’t people around. Fortunately, Dayton found a way to “crowd source” some of its downtown economic development through a team of volunteers backed by the Downtown Dayton Partnership as part of the public-private Greater Downtown Dayton Plan.
Partnering with property owners, volunteers and the DDP, this new program called Activated Spaces breathed new life in vacant street-level storefronts in three phases: The first phase displayed local artists who made the vacant properties visually appealing. The next phase is the Pop-Up Shop project, which offered short-term leases at a lower price point for new businesses, making a lower-risk point-of-entry for small business owners to move into the downtown retail market. The final phase transitioned the Pop-Up Shops to long-term leases at market rates.
The purpose of this project is two-fold: Stimulate the downtown economy and create a vibrant, urban atmosphere that drew consumers to this area. Support for urban vibrancy came loud and clear from two organizations that facilitate attraction and retention of young talent in the Dayton region. Generation Dayton, the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce’s professional development group for its under-40 crowd, and UpDayton, a nonprofit organization that connects young professionals to the region through civic engagement, teamed up to champion the Activated Spaces efforts. Property owners who had vacant first-floor spaces for decades agreed to try something new and offer move-in-ready spaces for 90 day terms in the hopes it would lead to long-term tenants.
The results: 14 shops launched (11 of which are still open), filling 13,300 square feet of space and creating about 30 jobs downtown. Property owners saw the initial gamble pay off with new tenants signing long-term leases. All this was accomplished with minimal financial contributions from public and private sources because of efforts of passionate volunteers.