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Starling Project strives to fill vacant storefronts along Central Corridor

The Starling Project is a sort of matchmaking service for University Avenue landlords and potential temporary renters.

It’s about filling vacant storefronts in the short term, many of which have been left empty as a result of the recession or other hardships connected to Central Corridor light-rail construction, according to Kristen Murray, who is a group leader.

In December, an eight-person team of graduate students from a neighborhood revitalization course at the University of Minnesota’s Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs launched the project as a creative way to help businesses that are struggling amid construction.

Murray says that the vacancies can be taken advantage of for “temporary or meanwhile uses, to bring extra energy into the corridor.”  

To do so, the group is hosting a series of informal open house events at various storefront spaces, which run through May.

The Starling Project is targeting areas where there’s a cluster of storefronts.
The group’s goal is “to figure out how this model can work longer-term for the Central Corridor and others in transition, where there are vacancies.”

Recently, a group of art students and their instructor from the university rented 2401 University for a temporary gallery, while other matches are in the works.  

“There’s a lot of visioning happening along the Central Corridor,” she says, adding that the group is trying to help neighborhood organizations “think about how vacant spaces can be used to express some of those visions for the future.”

“The temporary uses and events can really bolster business,” she says, adding, “We’re trying to [help] small locally-owned businesses survive and thrive.”  

Although other cities have worked on initiatives to enliven vacant storefronts, “There haven’t been any programs looking at how pop-up efforts can be a strategy to use during a disruptive period,” such as construction, says Murray.

Source: Kristen Murray, Starling Project
Writer: Anna Pratt
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