Historically, the Danforth East neighborhood was a vibrant commercial area and home to many small businesses in the 60`s and 70`s. However, over the past decade commercial activity significantly declined which resulted in a large number of vacant storefronts. In some cases, storefronts had been vacant for many years contributing to the aesthetic decline of the neighbourhood, raising safety concerns and discouraging walk-by traffic.
In an attempt to revitalize the area a group of neighbours formed the Danforth East Community Association in 2010.
The DECA is entirely formed of volunteers. While a group of individual neighbours initiated the Association, they were quickly joined by local businesses that offered pro bono professional services and community members that offered their manual labor.
With combined efforts, the DECA has undertaken a range of activities to make the neighbourhood vibrant, walkable and safe again. It initiated a weekly farmers market, regular parades and ceremonies as well as a yearly art fair. Furthermore, it initiated a Pop-up Project to fill the vacant store fronts.
DECA worked closely with local businesses and property owners to actively address the high commercial vacancy rate. It came up with the idea to have landlords making their otherwise empty space available to local businesses for a certain period of time. As a result, the first pop-up shop opened in 2012. The landlord offered free access to the space in exchange for the volunteers` cleaning, painting and staging of it for prospective tenants. More than 20 pop-up shops launched in the following months for a period of weekends, a week or even a full month in several locations in the area. The project evolved over time. Landlords indicated that they needed at least coverage for maintenance costs of the properties, such as heating and cooling costs. Thus, the DECA initiated a community meeting with all stakeholders to explore possibilities for the future direction of the Pop-up project. As a result, the Pop-up Project now operates with a maximum of a six-month-lease with a base rental fee of $700. Furthermore, landlords receive 10% of the gross sales if the tenants exceed $7,500 in a month.
The Project has been a huge success that benefits multiple stakeholders.
The Tenants, usually local start-ups – often operating only online—get the opportunity to try out the space and neighbourhood to see if a physical storefront and specifically this location may be a long-term opportunity. The landlord gets their space cleaned, painted and staged by the volunteers making it more attractive for potential renters to consider for the future while receiving money to at least cover their costs. The area benefits by having a formerly empty space filled with a local business, which creates foot traffic and a busier, more vibrant neighbourhood.
The objective of this pop-up shop example is primarily institutional as it strives to improve the economic revitalization in a certain area for the good of the community.
What other objectives for pop-up shops can you think of?
Who may have shown resistance towards this Pop-up Project?
Current tenants that are paying the full price on their rental/ lease
How can you overcome such resistance?
- Key to success for such initiative is communication with all stakeholders and involving them throughout the process
- Clarify project expectations: Ultimate objective is to revitalize community to find long-term tenants again; current tenants also benefit from this through increased foot traffic in the area
- DECA didn’t only help property owners with vacant spaces but also formed a Business Revitalization Team (BRT) where volunteers helped with store makeovers in occupied properties
Key learning objectives
- Introduction to Pop-up retail
- Showcasing the variety of stakeholders that can be involved
- Community revitalization as one objective of pop-up shops