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April 23, 2015

New Rochelle seeks more downtown pop with pop-ups

(as published in the WCBJ - Westchester County Business Journal)


New Rochelle city officials hope adding pop-up shops to outdoor plazas will bring more energy into downtown and create a stronger retail presence.

The city’s Department of Development recently issued a request for proposals for individuals or groups to establish, manage and operate “New Ro’s Pops” — outdoor pop-up retail facilities. City officials said it is an effort to attract more people to downtown, activate underutilized spaces and make them more of a destination, building on Mayor Noam Bramson’s goals of revitalization and economic stimulation.

“It’s one of the sort of sparks that we’re trying to light to get that process going,” said Ayanna Wayner, the city’s deputy commis- sioner for economic development.

Two municipally owned spaces targeted as pop-up shop sites are Anderson Plaza, at the intersection of North Avenue and Anderson Street, and Memorial Plaza, at the corner of Main Street and Memorial Highway.

Ralph DiBart, executive director of the New Rochelle Downtown Business Improvement District, said that in conversations he had with city officials, they realized pop-ups would be a good addition to the downtown because it is already walkable. “We have a very pedestrian-oriented downtown, and the more that we can invigorate street life the more it will help neighboring businesses,” he said.

The pop-up shops would operate in permanent kiosks in the plaza, similar to other open-air markets like Bryant Park and Union Square in Manhattan, according to Luiz Aragon, the city’s commissioner of development. He said the plan is for the shops to open by late spring or early summer.

The city’s RFP said the pop-ups could showcase arts ventures, business enterprises, entrepreneurs, gallerists and other vendors as part of a “dynamic downtown retail activation strategy.” The retail program aims to increase economic vitality, daytime and nighttime vibrancy and improve the downtown’s safety and economic health, according to the proposal.

“We felt having small concessions pop-ping up on a semi-permanent or changing basis would just create some more street excitement and would provide some more goods and services to shoppers and workers in downtown,” DiBart said.

He pictured vendors selling crafts or Christmas decorations and restaurants offering pickup lunches. DiBart said the flexibility afforded by pop-ups lends itself to creative ideas and trying different things. “It could be ice cream in the summer and hot chocolate in the winter,” he said.

Wayner said New Ro’s Pops offer an opportunity for businesses to test the market and publicize their concept, which could lead to permanent locations within the city. The RFP calls for experienced individuals, teams, nonprofits or private firms that can transform the outdoor space and carry out the logistics, financials, management and promotion of the project. Some of the evaluation criteria for proposals are past record of performance, creativity and pro- posed schedule and cost.

The city’s deadline for proposals is April 30.

DiBart said the city asked the BID to also review the proposals. “We hope to be surprised,” he said. “There’s a number of traditional expectations. We hope that there will be also some innovative uses that are proposed.”

DiBart said the pop-up shops present an opportunity to bring more people into New Rochelle. He said he saw a large increase in foot traffic when the BID start- ed the farmers market in Library Plaza three years ago.

“Downtown should always be a celebration of community, and the more interesting activities, destinations and offerings a down- town has, the more we can attract people not only to visit, but to linger and stay and patronize business, restaurants and offices,” he said.

The village of Ossining, which too wants to increase activity in its downtown, is also considering a pop-up concept in an outdoor plaza. Village trustees at their April 8 meeting were scheduled to hear a resident’s proposal to create a pop-up res- taurant in Market Square at the corner of Main and Spring streets. The proposal sug- gests creating a 40-seat theme restaurant and chef showcase under a tent called the Grill at Market Square and creating retail space with temporary structures.

Although the plan still is in its early stag- es, it could attract people to downtown, said Ossining Assistant Village Manager Christina Papes.

“It’s another way to generate excitement for the community so that people will want to come check it out, see what’s going on,” she said.



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