New pop-up shops aim to address downtown San Francisco's vacant storefront problem

A new San Francisco city program, ‘Vacant to Vibrant’, is hoping to fill some of the downtown areas large number of vacant storefronts, and bring new foot traffic to the area. Bay Area non-profit SF New Deal, which helped spearhead the program, is helping 17 new pop-up shops open their doors on Friday.

"Definitely arts and culture are a part of what we’re talking about in the new downtown, but small businesses also are a part of it," said SF New Deal executive director Simon Bertrang.

"Yesterday we started laying out the artwork, and we sold our first piece," said GCS Gallery owner, Victor Gonzalez, who is launching a pop-up on Jackson Street. "I’ve lost count already of how many people have peeked in the doors asking are you open yet."

Each pop-up is being offered three months of free rent, with the possibility of three more months if they consider a long-term lease.  

"Coming from a completely different neighborhood, it’s really kind of fun to have a completely new set of faces come in," said Linda Fahey, who moved her ceramics shop Yonder from the Richmond District into a pop-up downtown on Jackson Street. "Different traffic. Different neighborhood."

Bay Area NPR affiliate KALW celebrated its pop-up's opening night on Montgomery Street on Thursday.

"I’m encouraged. If this is how it’s starting, then hopefully it will build into something much bigger," said KALW executive producer Ben Trefny. "When we had the opportunity to be a part of ‘Vacant to Vibrant’, it was something we jumped on. We had music, and news, and information. We could do live events. We could have DJ's come in."

San Francisco Mayor London Breed is expected to join other city leaders in celebrating the official launch of ‘Vacant to Vibrant’ on Friday at 11 a.m.


SF launches "Vacant to Vibrant" program calling for ideas to turn office space into pop-up shops

When Simon Bertrang walks through downtown San Francisco, he doesn't just see empty storefronts, he sees properties, full of potential. Bertrang is executive director of SF New Deal, a non-profit chosen by the city to launch the program "Vacant to Vibrant".