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New program will revitalize key downtown vacant storefronts

(PITTSBURGH) August 15   With the positive momentum surrounding downtown’s latest development projects, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl today announced that the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership (PDP) has issued a Request for Proposals for participants for the newly created Project Pop Up Pittsburgh grant program.

Over the past five years, the City has invested $65.4 million into downtown, which leveraged $475.3 million, and created over 1,800 jobs. Another $1 billion of investment is planned for the next few years. Despite the large scale investment happening, there are still vacant storefronts and buildings in need of new life. Project Pop Up: Downtown will animate key downtown vacant storefronts, making them more attractive to lessees while improving the vibrancy, safety, and economic health of downtown.

“With the new and improved Market Square and commitments from business like PNC and others, our City’s Third Renaissance is on the move,” Mayor Ravenstahl said. “I’m excited to announce that our collaborative effort has created a program that will support downtown merchants with increased foot traffic, improve streetscape conditions and safety, as well as create additional reasons for locals and visitors to shop downtown.”

Individual artists, collaborative artist teams, commercial retail businesses, arts and culture related businesses, and other for-profit or nonprofit applicants are being sought to develop high-quality and innovative approaches to activating spaces through the use of pop-up art, performance, education, retail ventures, and any such combination. The program will work to transform up to 15 vacant spaces into sites active during the day and into the night. Activation will range from a short-term occupancy (ranging from six to 12 months), with the potential for long-term occupancy. Shorter terms may be available on a case-by-case basis.

“We are anticipating innovative and eye-catching proposals – exhibits and pop-up stores that you will not find anywhere else in the region. We are excited to work with a dedicated group of downtown stakeholders to implement this effort,” said Jeremy Waldrup, president & CEO, PDP. “This project is an incubator that will grow temporary uses into new developments and permanent businesses. There are a small number of vacant storefronts that may be the right opportunities for young entrepreneurs, artists, arts organizations, or established regional businesses to experience firsthand the potential success of a downtown location and prove the concept to other unique retailers.”

Project Pop Up: Downtown will provide grants of $1,500-$10,000 per project, contingent upon the scale and scope of each proposal and its corresponding available storefront. This allocation will be used by the selected applicants to design, produce, and manage their pop-up storefront.

An information session will be held on August 22, 2011 at 5 p.m. at the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council, 810 Penn Avenue, Suite 200, 15222. Storefronts are anticipated to be unveiled in November and December. A list of participating storefronts will be available on August 22 at the information session or online at

A consultant team of Bethany Tucke and John Valentine has been hired by the PDP to oversee program implementation. Ms. Tucke most recently served as the Deputy Director at The Andy Warhol Museum, previously consulted with Nike, and has worked with global clients such as Adidas, Apple, BMW, Sony Ericsson, and Microsoft. John Valentine currently serves as the executive director of the Downtown Neighborhood Association, and is a small business consultant with expertise in the restaurant and food service businesses. The Office of Public Art, a partnership program between the City of Pittsburgh and the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council, will manage the proposal selection process.

The expected duration of this program will be one calendar year, but pending its success, funding, and space availability, the program could continue into the future with possible expansion to other City neighborhoods.

The RFP is available online at or by contacting Bethany Tucke at or 412-566-4190.

The program was developed by a downtown stakeholder working group led by Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, and will be capitalized with a $25,000 start-up grant from the URA. Stakeholders include: the URA; PDP; Pittsburgh Cultural Trust; Downtown Neighborhood Association; Senator John Heinz History Center; Point Park University; Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, and others. Stakeholders and foundations have been challenged to match the initial City grant.

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