Did you know there are more than 200 vacant storefronts in the Lower East Side of Manhattan?
<p> <a href="http://www.madeinles.org/">Made in the Lower East Side (miLES)</a> started as an online collaboration through <a href="http://www.openideo.com/">OpenIDEO</a> to find ways to make use of these resources that are sitting idle in a vibrant neighborhood. We held numerous street interviews and engagement sessions, which resulted in a wide diversity of opinions about how to use these spaces.</p><p dir="ltr"> In April, we created a prototype storefront to test different models for using these underused storefronts to support entrepreneurial, creative and civic uses—including classes, co-working spaces, pop-up galleries, and pop-up shops. We had more than 100 requests for various kinds of pop-ups during the pilot period.</p><p dir="ltr"> Based on what we learned working with our pop-up hosts, we are now introducing the <a href="http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1215719462/made-in-the-lower-east-side-miles-storefront-trans">miLES Storefront Transformer</a> as a tool to support the incubation of more emerging ideas through pop-ups, so entrepreneurs and creatives can focus on creating their content and building their ideas.</p><p dir="ltr"> The Storefront Transformer is a versatile set of furnishing and amenities to program any storefront—essentially a six-foot cube that can be easily transported and subdivided to roll through any storefront door. When unfolded, the Storefront Transformer provides functional elements such as shelving, partitions, tables, seats, and a stage, as well as infrastructure like lighting, Wi-Fi, power strips, speakers, projectors, and a PA system, so you have all the basic ingredients to create your own pop-up.</p> <p class="shortcode-media shortcode-media-rebelmouse-image"> <img class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="7743ffc6609a0bda160e2de405408497" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" id="8371c" type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTkxODUwMy9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MDkzNDg2MH0.7hdlHiHgeQ2NUqR13Jyhp47ejbvx3uaq5MWjZkTbVTk/img.png?width=980"/> <small class="image-media media-caption" placeholder="add caption..."></small> <small class="image-media media-photo-credit" placeholder="add photo credit..."></small> </p><p dir="ltr"> We're running a Kickstarter campaign to prototype and demonstrate a miLES Storefront Transformer in action this November and December. We will transform a vacant storefront in the Lower East Side to incubate seven pop-up ideas with the following themes: show, play, learn, share, make, shop, and eat. The storefront transformer will continue to operate throughout next year to incubate more pop-up ideas from anyone—including, possibly, you.</p><p dir="ltr"> The seven weeks of pop-ups provide a demonstration that retail does not necessarily have to be a bar, restaurant, boutique, or chain store, but can instead be budding grounds of creative and civic activities. We'll host a pop-up comic book gallery with <a href="http://kirbymuseum.org/">Jack Kirby Museum</a> (week one), a nonprofit pop-up home helping homeless communities by <a href="http://www.thespaceattompkins.org/">The Space at Tompkins</a> (week four), and a pop-up holiday shop that promotes ethical, local, and sustainable products by <a href="http://www.tythe-design.com/">TYTHEdesign</a> (week six), and more.</p><p dir="ltr"> Our goal is to utilize vacant storefronts and create a neighborhood that is an incubator for ideas. By creating a common platform for different stakeholders, the community, small businesses and creatives can work with landlords to create a diverse and innovative spectrum of neighborly spaces that can be used by everyone.</p><p dir="ltr"> We are currently focused on the Lower East Side because of the creative, entrepreneurial, and community-driven spirit of the neighborhood, but the Storefront Transformer is applicable and scalable to any neighborhood across the globe. The model is especially applicable to neighborhoods with a mix of different communities and those that are going through a lot of changes (like the Lower East Side) because it help brings diverse interests onto the same platform for exchanges and dialogues.</p><p dir="ltr"> Over the last few months, we have started to work with smaller landlords who are willing to let us pop up in their vacant storefronts one month at a time while they are waiting for their long term tenants. We need to gather more support to recruit more landlords to open up these valuable resources for everyone.</p><p dir="ltr"> Help us transform our neighborhood and scale this effort across different changing neighborhoods around the world. And help entrepreneurs, creatives and civic-minded communities showcase their emerging ideas, one storefront at a time.</p><p> <em>This project is part of GOOD's series <a href="http://www.good.is/push-for-good">Push for Good</a>—our guide to crowdsourcing creative progress.</em></p><p dir="ltr"> <em>Images courtesy of Made in the Lower East Side</em></p>
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