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Transforming a vacant storefront along the Central Corridor

In a unique partnership with the Starling Project, the St. Anthony Park Community Council (SAPCC) is temporarily reimagining a vacant storefront space on University Avenue in St. Paul.

The Starling Project facilitates such “meanwhile uses” of empty spaces along the avenue’s portion of the Central Corridor light rail transit line, according to project materials.

Even though the bulk of the construction here has wrapped up, shoppers are still avoiding the area, according to Amy Sparks, who heads SAPCC.

To take advantage of the space, SAPCC and Starling are on the lookout for entrepreneurs, artists, and other creative types to fill the place.

Tenants will fill the 1,200-square-foot pop-up shop for anywhere from one to four weeks.

Renters should engage the public in some way, such as through a one-time event, open studio hours, or an interesting window display, according to a prepared statement about the project.

So far, the space has a few takers, including Irrigate Arts, which is leading the charge on numerous artist-led placemaking projects along the light rail line. Irrigate will have an exhibit in the space that documents these efforts.

Sky View, which is an aerial photo workshop and gallery, will also have a presence there.

Last month, an art show called Art du Nord occupied the former frame shop.  

Ultimately, the neighborhood group sees the rotating uses as a way to bring life to the avenue, according to Sparks. “We want to see University Avenue thrive and help keep businesses going.”     

It’s also a creative way to find a permanent tenant for the space.

More broadly, the project calls attention to the neighborhood’s Creative Enterprise Zone, which is an in-progress arts district-like designation. It's all about strengthening the local creative community, she explains.

Sparks hopes these types of events will “build up awareness of the area, so people start to recognize it as a creative area and want to locate here and do business here.”

As such, the group is trying “to get the right developments in,” and keep office space affordable. “It makes the Creative Enterprise Zone more real and tangible,” she says.

Source: Amy Sparks, executive director, SAPCC
Writer: Anna Pratt
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