Local and international businesses alike are gearing up to fill some long-abandoned storefronts around Richmond for a pop-up vendor event during the bike race.
Richmond’s “Storefront for Community Design” has been working for the past few years to improve local establishments by helping businesses, nonprofits and universities redesign their spaces, and their newest venture is their “pop-up RVA” event happening during the UCI Road World Championships.
Storefront opened in 2011, and has since been working to improve the quality of life for Richmond residents and businesses. One of the integral locations for the both pop-up event and the race is the corner of 2nd and Broad Street. Tyler King, the program director, said that the pop-up event should help to bring new business to some of these decrepit retail locations.
“Every course turns at the corner of 2nd and Broad, yet three out of four corners at the intersection are vacant,” King said. “The opportunity to reactivate two of those is something that required the race to be that catalytic thing that gets everyone on board to say ‘Hey, let’s make that happen.’”
The unique opportunity for local community members to be able to rent out their own space during the week of the bike race is valuable for small businesses, community groups or individuals who now have the opportunity to rent out storefronts or portions of storefronts for daily or weekly rates to sell whatever they want.
“As a community engagement organization, I think we see this as our mission,” King said. “It promotes economic development in a lot of corridors. You’re filling in empty space and you’re putting eyes on the street, and that contributes growth to the community.”
This event, along with other pop-up events happening around the city during the race, gives the spectators a place to spend their money and it gives the shop owners a chance to make a profit they would not have otherwise.
Storefront has helped to open community parks, refurbish abandoned houses and assist community members in transforming their entire neighborhood. These projects all arise from the need of the neighbors for a better planned and organized community.
Along with design projects, The Storefront for Community Design staff also holds workshops and seminars to educate the people of Richmond on how they can improve their neighborhood through advocacy and local government involvement.
The city of Richmond has more than 100 different neighborhoods, all with different cultures and different needs. The Storefront for Community Development has been working to improve the lives of people in the city for almost five years. All of the design work and physical labor associated with each project that Storefront works on is done by volunteers.
This continues with Storefront’s mission of strengthening the community through design. Storefront works beside a VCUarts team of graphic, fashion and interior design students in their “Middle of Broad” division to come up with the physical plans to renovate the city.
“I’m glad that (the race) has emboldened a lot of us to do things that we thought were originally impossible, whether or not they’re all related to cycling I’m not sure,” King said. “On the other hand, part of me does question why it takes an event of this scale to meet basic needs like activating our streets and providing safe paths for cyclists.”