After the recession, lots of vacant storefronts became one-time pop-up shops and artist studios. But even though those storefront are starting to fill back up—last year Chicago saw its lowest retail vacancy rate since the recession—an arts and architecture group called Made in the Lower East Side (MiLES) in New York thinks the idea could stick long after the recession.
The group counts 212 vacant storefronts—an estimated 250,000 square feet—that are still empty in the Lower East Side, and is proposing a rent-a-space business, Serena Soloman reported for DNAinfo.com. Eric Ho, a member of the New York design collaborative Architecture Commons, one of the six organizations that makes up MiLES, proposes a space-rental online database, similar to Zipcar or Zagster, a bike-sharing startup. (Other organizations working on the project are OpenIDEO, Fourth Arts Block, City API, Design for America, Listenin Pictures, Tythe Design, and The Value Web.)
Ho and MiLES are schmoozing with landlords of those vacant spaces and seeking a $5,000 grant from Good Maker Art Challenge. In order to furnish and fitout the rentable spaces, MiLES is looking for Good Maker to fund a prototype called Mobile Stage, that will travel around vacant lots. MiLES hopes to have its operation up and running by next summer.
The business plan is certainly appealing for landlords: Ho told DNA Info that “the vacant spaces could still be on the market angling for long-term tenants while making some immediate income from the quick-hit rentals.”