How to Fill Those Empty Storefronts
Inaugural event will bring national leaders to Milwaukee to discuss long-term solutions for commercial corridors with empty storefronts.
Empty storefronts exist in virtually every commercial corridor in Milwaukee. Whether it’s N. Downer Ave. on the East Side or the S. Cesar Chavez Dr. on the South Side, you’ll find empty storefronts and local leaders looking for ways to fill them. It’s not a problem unique to Milwaukee, but it’s one that will get increasing attention as cities continues to gain more residents and businesses.
Two local organizations have teamed up to create the Empty Storefronts Conference focused on finding long-term uses for the vacant commercial spaces. NAIOP Wisconsin, the Wisconsin chapter of the Commercial Real Estate Development Association, and NEWaukee have set up the one-day conference for June 1st to look at what’s working and what isn’t. (Urban Milwaukee is a sponsor of the conference.)
Unlike virtually any other Milwaukee conference, the event will take place all across the city. The central hub will be in the Grand Avenue Mall’s Plankinton Arcade building. But after a two-hour morning session, attendees will branch out across the city. Staying true to the conference’s name, they’ll end up attending sessions in empty storefronts in such city neighborhoods as Avenues West, Silver City, The Brewery, Sunset Heights and Clarke Square.
NEWaukee sees the conference as taking the next step in their efforts. The social architecture organization has worked on a number of successful events that have promoted temporary uses for places, perhaps most visibly the W. Wisconsin Ave. Night Market. Jeremy Fojut of NEWaukee says the organization often hears people say, “wouldn’t it be great if these programs could fill the vacancies long term?” Fojut hopes this conference will provide an answer, that the event will identify solutions “to revitalize neighborhoods and recharge empty storefronts with new life.”
NEWaukee is no stranger to empty storefronts. When the co-founders made the company their full-time pursuit they opened their offices in one. In the lower level of the Shops of Grand Avenue, the company is an unconventional user of a couple thousand square-feet of otherwise empty space. They’re one of the last remaining Grand Avenue Mall tenants from the unfortunately discontinued Creativity Works Here program that bought “creative class” firms to empty retail spaces in the struggling mall.
Full-day tickets for the conference are $110 and half-day tickets are available for $60. To purchase tickets or find more information about the conference, please visit www.emptystorefronts.com