Pop-up shops bring innovation to vacant lots

August 3, 2010 7:00:44 PM PDT
The city of San Francisco is moving forward with an innovative plan to bring more life to an already lively neighborhood. The idea is to turn eyesores into mini-stores.

Robyn Goldman will soon be part of an only in San Francisco experiment. Right now her popular ice cream company, Smitten is limited to festivals and fairs.

But by the end of next month a vacant lot could be her business address.

"It's such an interesting innovative project. We are doing a similar approach with ice cream, rethinking the ice cream experience with made-to-order ice cream in an artisan way," she said,

Goldman's company is going to be one of several "pop up stores" expected to be housed in recycled shipping containers.

Twenty five spruced up boxes will be hooked up to water and electricity and installed on empty lots owned by the city.

"The whole idea is if you have vacant land, what can you do in the interim to use that land instead of letting it grow weeds, collect graffiti and garbage," San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom said.

The land is in the Hayes Valley neighborhood near City Hall. It's in the path of what was the old earthquake damaged Central Freeway.

When that freeway was demolished, the plan was for housing to be built, but the recession has put that on hold. The city has decided to find alternatives until the economy picks up.

Another example of vacant city owned land in the same neighborhood. Some land has been turned into a community garden as part of project homeless connect.

This plan envisions turning a parking lot and empty parcel into restaurants, art galleries, a beer garden and shops and the leases run from three to four years. The Merchants Association and other neighborhood groups are said to be on board.

"It's giving opportunity for a lot of local businesses or new startup businesses to get a foothold in a really hot neighborhood," Jim Warshell from the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association said.

The city has 12 lots nearby, so if this project is a success more pop-ups could follow.


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