There are a lot of vacant storefronts in downtown Denver.The city — and its supporters — are offering free rent to some businesses venturing there

So far, none of the participants have opted to make their temporary storefront permanent, but this is the ultimate goal.

“That’s our hope,” said Sarah Wibenson, director of economic development for the Downtown Denver Partnership and head of Pop-Up Denver. “Eventually they will be successful and they will have time to build a customer base by not paying the base rent.”

Landlords were happy with the results, even though it meant they didn’t collect rent on the property, Wibenson said.

“When you get the flow of people coming and going from the pop-up, it increases the visibility of the rent-paying tenant next door. It also shows the viability of a space that may have been vacant for a long time,” she said.

20220914-DENVER-MALL-BUSINESS-POPUPHart Vandenberg/CPR News
Pedestrians walk past papered windows of a vacant retail space at Denver’s 16th Street Mall on Wednesday, Sept. 9. January 14, 2022.
20220914-DENVER-MALL-BUSINESS-POPUPHart Vandenberg/CPR News
A Denver police motorcycle is parked at the Denver 16th Street Mall on Wednesday, Sept. 9. A storefront for rent under a pop-up program in Denver on January 14, 2022.

If the landlord can find a paying tenant, they can retain the option to replace the pop-up with a paying tenant. If that happens, the Downtown Denver Partnership will work to find new space for the business, Wiebenson said.

Empty storefronts are becoming a stubborn problem in areas like the 16th Street Mall, which depend on commuter foot traffic and business during the week. The remote work revolution sparked by the pandemic has been great for white-collar workers who can shorten their commute and work from the comfort of their home office, but not so great for the restaurants and stores they use to spend their money.

The feeling of being hollowed out at the 16th Street Mall has created many problems for businesses there. Public perceptions of downtown Denver safety are growing, Beth Moyski, vice president of the Downtown Denver Partnership, said at a recent Colorado Chamber of Commerce event on homelessness. more and more problematic.

“It’s that person talking to themselves… They may not have any connection with me anyway, but when you pass them or when they pass you, it can make you uncomfortable. That’s why people feel unsafe ,” Moisky said during the panel discussion.

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