One “microspace.” Six months. Thirty businesses.
Officials Tuesday unveiled a plan to combine those three at a former ATM alcove at 55 Church St. downtown.
The alcove, dubbed Popup55, is the latest effort by Project Storefronts, a city- and state-funded initiative to temporarily fill vacant spaces with inventive businesses.
The latest effort involves a tiny space that customers previously used to take out money from an ATM.
Darlene Reilly, property manager at the Hurley Group, which owns the building, said she approached Project Storefronts program manager Elinor Slomba about the alcove.
“You know, I’ve got this weird space—what do you think I can do with it?” Reilly recalled asking Slomba.
Slomba snatched up the space on a six-month lease for what she called a nominal fee. She called up Gordon Skinner, of Woodbridge, who has a studio and gallery in Fair Haven’s Erector Square.
Skinner jumped at the chance to bring his paintings, drawings and mixed-media collages downtown. His work (pictured) will be on display for people peering in the window while waiting for the bus. And he hopes to use the spot to sell some of his work.
Skinner helped Mayor Toni Harp snip a ceremonial ribbon at the storefront Tuesday afternoon. Then he led her inside.
He and Project Storefronts staff plan to open the mini-gallery for viewing on Thursday evenings from 4 to 7 p.m. and on weekends from 12 to 4 p.m. during the International Festival of Arts & Ideas, which kicks off this Saturday.
Skinner’s work will hang until July 2, Slomba said. After that, she has planned a series of exhibitors, which she said will total 30 by the end of six months. Future exhibitions include a display of urban gardening products, jewelry and spa products, and clothing for sale.
The goal is to showcase local businesses as well as liven up the streetscape. Slomba got a head-start on that plan Tuesday by hiring Elias Rubio, a student at Hill Regional Career High School, to cater the press conference. Elias and his mom, Maria Rubio (pictured), hail from Paraguay and currently live in the Hill. They’re trying to get a business off the ground that serves up empanadas.