Campaign is underway to fill empty Indy storefronts and help startups

St'Artup 317 intends to connect creative startups with landlords to temporarily use vacant store space and window fronts. (photo courtesy: Develop Indy)

INDIANAPOLIS (Inside INdiana Business) — Applications are now being accepted to temporarily place creatives and startups in vacant, visible, commercial spaces in Indianapolis. St’Artup317 is a program designed to connect tenants with landlords who have empty storefronts in the downtown area, and other neighborhoods in Indianapolis.

It is overseen by Indy-based nonprofit PATTERN and Develop Indy, the economic development arm of Indy Chamber.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Catherine Esselman, senior product manager with Develop Indy, said the activation of empty storefronts, even for short lengths of time, helps the business community, including artists and designers.

“When people think of startups, they think of more tech. And we’re saying there are other kinds of startups, other people, other industries other niches need a dedicated space to start up,” said Esselman. “And so that’s really where this came from, the intentionality of creating space for our creative community, our creative class here in Indianapolis.”

Now in its fourth year, the program is currently accepting applications from businesses or nonprofits that have a product display that can pop-up for 30 days.

It offers both short-term retail space with regular business hours or a window display, potentially attracting customers.

“St’Artup317 offers artists and creatives visibility that they otherwise might not have access to, especially during a pandemic,” said Polina Osherov, executive director of PATTERN. “The program not only benefits vendors and landlords but also the city itself by displaying the culture that is a part of Indianapolis.”

Esselman says the space is rent-free, but the business operators must meet certain criteria. The goal is to fill the vacated spaces with tenants that may not have the capital or budget for the short-term but could also lead to a longer lease.

“I’m not trying to solve all of the problems without trying to find the longer, forever tenant, but I bet this will drive some interest in this site that otherwise wasn’t getting much attention,” said Esselman.

The program launched in May 2017. Esselman says it has been held in the month of May to coincide with an uptick of travelers and visitors during the Indianapolis 500.

“As a result of COVID-19, many businesses have closed or seen a depressed need for space. St’Artup317 brings life to the vacancies and helps the neighboring tenants that are seeing a decrease in foot traffic and engagement,” said Esselman. “St’Artup317 hopes to concentrate in locations that already have momentum but also have vacancies. This clustering will help rebuild consumer confidence and economic development in our key commercial corridors.”

St’Artup317 is still looking for available space. Esselman encourages landlords with available commercial space to consider the program.

“The ideal size is you know between one to 2000 square feet. I’m not looking for a former department store or a big box store just because it takes a lot of inventory to fill that and make it feel right,” said Esselman. “Because of the limited timeframe and the trying to keep costs down low, we want to take a space that feels like it can be occupied.”

St’Artup317 is taking applications through February 8. To learn more about the program or to apply for space, click here.