Pop-up storefronts proving popular Downtown
Mayor Luke Ravenstahl looks into the storefront window of Fraley's Robot Repair with artist Toby Fraley.
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The name on the Sixth Street storefront says Fraley's Robot Repair, but Toby Fraley is an artist, not an engineer.
The forlorn robot on the table is a prop, not a patient, and come fall, robot, shop and Mr. Fraley all could be gone.
Such is the nature of Project Pop Up: Downtown, the city's campaign to fill 11 empty storefronts with quirky shops and displays. Some may turn a profit and stay. Others may vanish as quickly as they appeared.
Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and the pop-ups' proprietors gathered Tuesday outside Heinz Hall to celebrate the program and promote a "pop-up crawl" to be held from 5 to 10 p.m. Friday.
Although the city should be proud of a recent spate of Downtown development, including new restaurants and housing in Market Square, it can't rest on its laurels, Mr. Ravenstahl said. "That's why this project is so important," he said, expressing a desire to expand the program.
Pop-ups long have been popular in other cities, including New York. In some cases, big-name retailers occupy pop-up locations for no more than a month.
Pittsburgh chose its first 11 pop-ups from among 90 or so applicants. They'll get free rent for as long as a year, thanks to a $25,000 grant from the city Urban Redevelopment Authority and funds from the Heinz Endowments, Colcom Foundation and an anonymous donor.
The first pop-up surfaced before Christmas. Eight storefronts are occupied now, and three soon-to-come ventures will round out the program.
"We never would have been able to do this otherwise," said Tamara Barker, an owner of Boutique 208 at 208 Sixth St. The business showcases the wares of local artists, and Ms. Barker said sales have been up almost every month since December.
Mr. Fraley, a Dormont resident, hopes to forge a reputation for large public art displays. He figured the robot repair shop, resembling the television and vacuum cleaner repair shops of bygone days, would be good experience. He regularly modifies the display, at 210 Sixth St.
"So far, the response has been great," he said.
Other pop-ups include Awesome Books, 929 Liberty Ave., which is already negotiating a long-term lease; and exhibits such as Main Feature, 420 Wood St.; Symbiotic Collusion, 131 Seventh St.; and Summer Sky Eternal, 604 Liberty Ave.
Still to come are BikePark in the parking authority's Third Avenue garage; the Society for the Advancement of Miniature Curiosa, a gallery and puppet theater at 131 Seventh St.; and Dream Cream Ice Cream, 539 Liberty Ave.
Ice cream shop proprietors Alecia Shipman and Thomas Jamison will allow "dreamers" a share in the profits if they help in the shop and use the proceeds to fill a void in their lives.
First Published March 28, 2012 12:00 am