Could Rent-Free Spaces Spark Development in Buffalo?
In an attempt to fill empty storefronts, the city of Pittsburgh is allowing developers to move in rent free. Is this an idea that Buffalo should incorporate into their own urban development plan?
According to the Post-Gazette, the city will allow these "Pop-up stores" to stay rent-free for up to a year. The incentive for the city is that many of these stores will turn a quick profit in their trial period and decide to stay put.
Store owners enjoy this opportunity as well, as it gives them a free "test drive," if you will, of the business environment. Reports indicate that in Pittsburgh many unique storefronts such as art galleries, ice cream shops, and music shops, as well as many others, have popped up. This also provides the perfect chance for those who have wished to open their own business but have either not had the resources or location.
Pittsburgh is not the only city to have tried this, many others such as New York City have experimented with "pop-up" programs; I think it would work for Buffalo as well. We have a lot of small and unique companies that may be presently located in the suburbs, but would like some downtown exposure. A rent-free trial period would not only fill abandoned storefronts, but provide a much needed spark to the downtown commercial market. While it would require an upfront cost (the project in Pittsburgh was engineered in part to a $25,000 grant from various donors), I think it would provide an immediate benefit for store-owners and the city alike. Why not give it a shot?