'Seeing the potential': SF's Vacant to Vibrant pop-ups hope to extend their stay in city

BySuzanne Phan KGO logo
Saturday, December 23, 2023
SF's Vacant to Vibrant pop-ups hope to extend their stay in city
San Francisco's Vacant to Vibrant pop-up shops hope to extend their stay in the city as foot traffic is coming back.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- See's Candies at the Embarcadero Center in San Francisco is shutting down on Dec. 24. It's a long-time fixture there. As more businesses in the Financial District close, there are a several small businesses that are hoping to extend their stay.

A handful of pop-up businesses in the Embarcadero Center are temporarily operating in empty storefronts as part of the "Vacant to Vibrant" program.

As some businesses shutter, these mom and pop places hope to stick around a while longer.

So many people love See's Candies in the Embarcadero Center especially around the holidays.

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"Oh my goodness. I got my favorite pieces. I got the rum nougat," said Lisa Semeraro. "I bought six boxes for everyone in New York."

Semeraro got word that the beloved store plans to close on Dec. 24; she was disappointed, but not surprised.

"It's slow traffic, it's COVID, lots of people working from home," said Semeraro.

Mayor London Breed launched the Vacant to Vibrant program to help revive Downtown San Francisco. The plan offers pop-ups three months free rent to operate out of empty storefronts.

Devil's Teeth Baking Company in Embarcadero One is a popular place.

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Then there's Whack Donuts in Four Embarcadero Center.

And Teranga, a Senegalese restaurant, also in Four Embarcadero Center.

Even as places like See's Candies closes, some hope the Vacant to Vibrant program will help breathe new life into the area.

The first phase of the program is wrapping up. And several businesses say they want to stay on a while longer.

"Three months has been a blur. Now I'm at a point where I'm working with negotiations to extend my lease," said Vandor Hill, owner of Whack Donuts. "Just seeing the potential for that whole S.F. coming back is definitely inspiring."

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"We'd love to stay," said Nafy Flatley, owner of Teranga. "We were extended to February so we could have the full three months. And then after February, or a little bit before February, we can sit down and kind of look at the numbers -- how sales have been, how the overall experience has been for all of us."

ABC7 News reached out to the Vacant to Vibrant program director. SF New Deal executive director Simon Bertrand shared this reaction saying:

"We are excited and encouraged to report that our Vacant to Vibrant activators and property owners are engaged in productive conversations regarding lease extensions. Out of respect for ongoing discussions, we're not able to share details at this time, but we anticipate that almost all of the nine locations will be continuing beyond our initial three-month pop-up activation term."

The owner of Teranga says that of the four towers in the Embarcadero Center, Embarcadero Four has the highest percentage of workers returning to the office - more than 65%.

The property manager, BXP, was unavailable for comment.

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