Cities Offering Discounted Pop-Up Spaces to Fill Retail Vacancies


Some big cities are getting creative to fill vacant retail and office space in their commercial districts. And it’s leading to increased opportunities for small businesses.

For example, Seattle Restored is a program that offers pop-up spaces for retail, events, and art exhibits by making empty spaces available at discounted rates.

Small businesses and artisans in the community can browse spaces on the organization’s website, searching and sorting options based on neighborhood, type of space, and community impact.

The idea is to provide available retail space to small businesses that wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford it, all while revitalizing the city’s commercial districts.

Seattle Restored Program Director Andrea Porter told KXAN, “We were learning from artists and entrepreneurs what their needs were when they were looking at coming out of the pandemic. A lot of them were saying an opportunity to have a brick-and-mortar space would be amazing.”

The Downtown Austin Alliance is also launching a similar program to combat the city’s 12 percent storefront vacancy rate. The Downtown Austin Space Activation program offers discounted spaces for a variety of business ventures, including pop-up restaurants, mini-markets, art installations, event spaces, and collaborative co-working spaces.

The Downtown Austin Alliance Foundation is helping to cover some of the cost of these spaces through donations. So the small businesses that rent spaces will receive them at a steep discount, accessing priority downtown locations without having to sign and pay for long-term leases.

DASA’s website states, “A lack of affordable space poses barriers to many Austinites showcasing their talents downtown. Vacant storefronts and spaces downtown lead to fewer folks coming downtown to play, shop and explore. DASA bridges this gap by connecting artists, artisans, musicians, entrepreneurs, and creatives of all kinds with donated space and resources to bring their ideas to life, encouraging diversity and dynamism in our city.”

Utilizing these retail spaces in prominent business districts can help businesses and artisans reach new customers and bring their ventures to the next level. But the traditional model of long-term leases at full price is often cost-prohibitive for the newest businesses.

Programs like this may not be available in every community. But they’re becoming more popular, and businesses that wouldn’t otherwise be able to utilize brick-and-mortar locations are benefitting.

Image: Shutterstock

Annie Pilon Annie Pilon is a Senior Staff Writer for Small Business Trends and has been a member of the team for 12 years. Annie covers feature stories, community news and in-depth, expert-based guides. She has a bachelor’s degree from Columbia College Chicago in Journalism and Marketing Communications.