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Downtown Indy Inc. launching 'pop-up' retail program

March 21, 2018

Downtown Indy Inc. is launching what it describes as a “retail pop-up initiative” that aims to fill empty commercial spaces downtown with temporary art and retail offerings.

The program, called St’artUp 317, will give participants a chance to showcase their artwork and/or sell their wares on a short-term basis at selected downtown sites: two retail spaces, a handful of display windows and a parking lot.

Its goal is to connect landlords with people who might be interested in becoming tenants. 

Other partners in the effort include the city of Indianapolis and Pattern, a not-for-profit organization that uses fashion arts to support creativity and small businesses.

“This program came about as just a way to activate first-floor space,” said Catherine Esselman, Downtown Indy Inc.’s real estate director. “We have a lot of (vacant) first-floor space that needs some creative solutions on it.”

The program, Esselman said, will give vendors a way to dip their toes into retail in a time-limited and low-risk way. If they find success, they might go on to lease space at that venue—or another downtown site.

Downtown Indy Inc. is now soliciting applications from interested vendors and artists. Applications can be found at downtownindy.org/startup317. Pattern will also host a gathering for interested applicants from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. March 21 at Artistry Apartments at the corner of Market and New Jersey streets. 

The application deadline is April 1, and the first round of pop-up activity will take place in May.

Here’s how the program will work:

Available sites include two 1,000-square-foot retail spaces—one inside Artistry Apartments, and the other at a vacant building at the corner of Virginia and Woodlawn avenues in Fountain Square. The parking lot outside the Fountain Square building will be available as an additional space on weekends only.

Each of the retail sites could house one or more vendors who will be able to use the space to sell their merchandise, Esselman said.

For the window spaces, Esselman envisions recruiting collaborative groups of artists who work together to create a piece of art for a particular window. 

The window spaces include three windows at Artistry Apartments; window space at Forte Apartment, at 1140 S. Shelby St. in Fountain Square; and a total of five windows at Circle Centre Mall—two former Nordstrom windows, one each on Meridian and Georgia streets; and three windows on Washington Street just west of the Carson’s windows.

Participants will pay an administrative fee of $250 per retail space or $125 per window or outdoor space, Esselman said, and participating artists will receive stipends to help cover the costs of needed materials or equipment. 

Esselman said the May pop-ups will be a trial program, and Downtown Indy Inc. hopes to launch another round of pop-ups later this year.

“We’d like to be able to do this again in November and December, in the holiday months,” she said. “We’re excited to see where this goes.”

To get ideas for its own program, Downtown Indy Inc. studied pop-up initiatives in a number of other cities, including Cincinnati and Columbus in Ohio; Houston and Minneapolis.

Correction: The original version of this story had the wrong date for meeting with interested applicants. The meeting is 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. March 21 at Artistry Apartments.

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