(PITTSBURGH) March 27, 2012 A new initiative led by Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership officially “popped up” today. Called “Project Pop Up: Downtown,” the program provides up to a year of free-lease space for local talent to transform downtown vacant storefronts into quirky, fun and innovative art and retail displays. The pop-ups - ranging from a jetson-based robot repair shop to an ice cream store that serves up dreams - may soon fold into new business enterprises or attract lessees, but in the meantime offer downtown residents and visitors even more culture and vibrancy. At today’s official launch, two additional projects announced opening dates, and all 11 rejuvenated storefronts will be active for a special self-guided pop-up tour this Friday.
“Both the City and the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership have vibrant storefront renovation programs that not only help to attract more small businesses, but enliven City streets,” Ravenstahl said. “This collaborative initiative takes our storefront programs one step further to advance Pittsburgh’s Third Renaissance. By working closely with downtown stakeholders, we will continue to build on all of the economic momentum that has resulted in dozens of new downtown restaurants, and nearly $5 billion in investment.”
The initiative had a “soft” launch on Light Up Night when two storefronts activated, including the popular Robot Repairs located on Sixth Avenue. On First Night, an additional five “pop-ups” made their debut, including Awesome Books and The Steel Curtain. At today’s official launch, the owners of Dream Cream Ice Cream announced they will open April 27 and BikePark: Third Avenue will open June 1.
"Pittsburgh is home to so many creative and entrepreneurial people and we are privileged to have assembled such a passionate and talented group as part of the first round. These storefronts are exactly what we want to see more of downtown, they provide unique shopping opportunities and enliven downtown streets with fun and engaging experiences,” said Jeremy Waldrup, president and CEO, Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership.
More than 90 artists, entrepreneurs and nonprofits submitted proposals last September to activate vacant downtown storefronts. An artist selection jury conducted by the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council selected 11 finalists based on their innovative approach through the use of pop-up art, performance, education, retail or any such combination. Seven storefronts are active every day and all 11 storefronts will be up and running by the beginning of summer. Residents are encouraged to participate in a self-guided tour of the pop-ups this Friday, March 30, at 5 p.m. For additional details, click here.
Project Pop Up: Downtown has provided grants of $1,500-$10,000 per project, contingent upon the scale and scope of each storefront. These allocations have been used by the finalists to design, produce and manage their pop-up storefront.
“As a Pittsburgh-based artist, I appreciate the Mayor’s investment in public art and revitalization efforts that represent a commitment to ensuring that Pittsburgh continues to be a thriving and sustainable city,” said Toby Fraley, creator of the Project Pop Up installation, Robot Repair. “I have already received feedback from downtown employees who detour their morning walking commute to pass Robot Repair and from suburban residents who travel into town to see the installation.”
Feedback from the initiative has been so successful, that the City is working on expanding the program to impact more downtown storefronts, such as the “Skinny Building” at 641 Forbes Avenue.
“Some downtown storefronts just don’t have the floor space that developers need to attract retail,” Ravenstahl said. “The ‘Skinny Building’ is an example of a storefront that would be ideal for a signature, semi-permanent artwork display. It is our goal to make this storefront a key display for round two of Project Pop Up.”
The program was developed by a downtown stakeholder working group led by the Mayor’s Office, and was capitalized with a $25,000 start-up grant from the URA. Additional funding has been provided by the Heinz Foundation, Colcom Foundation and an anonymous donor. Stakeholders include the URA, Department of City Planning, Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, Downtown Neighborhood Association, Senator John Heinz History Center, Point Park University, Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, and others.
POP-UP DISPLAYS AND DESCRIPTIONS:
Project Pop Up: Downtown - Printable map of storefronts
Dream Cream Ice Cream (to open April 27)
539 Liberty Ave
More than just a great place for a scoop. A portion of designated flavor sales will be contributed to causes in exchange for community service of the recipient, aka “the dreamer.”
208 Sixth St
A retail boutique featuring high quality, handmade wares from local artisans. Plus, community workshops.
210 Sixth St.
Is your robot experiencing technical difficulties? Consider visiting this place for a potential fix.
Society for the Advancement of Miniature Curiosa
131 Seventh St.
A gallery, toy theater parlor, performance space, and workshop that seeks to spark the resurgence of curiosity and wonderment in Downtown Pittsburgh.
131 Seventh St.
A modern music initiative presenting visual and musical art concepts through installation, education and performance. Performances will include string quartets, bands, orchestra, and demonstrations.
Summer Sky Eternal
604 Liberty Ave.
No matter what the season, this interactive digital installation will make you feel a bit warmer on the city street. Step near the screen to see how your movement affects the display.
The Steel Curtain
1035 Penn Ave.
The greatest defensive line of all time comes alive in this installation. See the iconic front four from the Steelers dynasty at this historical display.
929 Liberty Ave.
An independent Pittsburgh-based bookstore offering new and used books of high quality. Expect readings by authors and publishers.
422 Wood St.
A photographic installation of analog televisions and morphing portraiture, displaying a wall of personalities and identities representing the importance of community.
420 Wood St.
You are the star of this “main feature.” Have a look for yourself as you approach the marquee, box office and entrance to this movie house.
BikePARK: 3rd Ave Garage (to open June 2012)
238 Fourth Ave.
A weather-protected and secure place to park your bike, whether you’re a bike commuter, Downtown resident or frequent visitor. Monthly memberships available.