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Queen City Pop-Up suspended; no takers for free retail space on Main Street

Despite aggressive marketing and a deadline extension, the city-sponsored Queen City Pop-Up program failed to draw any small or startup retailers to take up free storefront space on Main Street for the summer.

"We didn't get a ton of interest this cycle, which was a little surprising to us," said Brandye Merriweather, vice president of Buffalo Urban Development Corp., one of the three city and nonprofit agencies that jointly run the program. "I've had some calls, but I haven't had any actually come through."

She said retailers had expressed interest in the program but indicated that they didn't have enough staff for the summer to commit to the program because of the "summertime event circuit" of festivals they'd also be staffing.

As a result, officials decided to put it on hold for the three months and instead to "re-up at the end of the summer" for the fall session, Merriweather said. She added that she would try to issue a new request for proposals by late August or early September.

"We're not canceling the program indefinitely," she said. "We're just going to call it off for this summer."

The disappointing result marks the first time the city program has failed to garner enough interest to fill its space. Merriweather doesn't believe it's an indication the program has run its course.

"A lot of them expressed interest in applying for the fall and holiday season," Merriweather said of retailers. "They just weren't able to do it for the two months over the summer. There's still definitely a need out there."

The initiative, run for several years by BUDC, Buffalo Place and Working for Downtown, offers free rent in a concentrated area on Main Street to allow new stores to test their wares and services in downtown Buffalo. It's designed to bring more small retailers to Main Street in downtown Buffalo, while filling up vacant storefronts.

Several previous participants opened permanent locations on Main Street after the program ended.

The canceled round was slated to be hosted by Key Success and Ciminelli Real Estate Corp. at their Key Center at Fountain Plaza, from June 15 to Aug. 31. That might still be the location for the fall, Merriweather said, but it's too early to be sure.

"It's hard to say this early on, just because a lot of the property owners are marketing their vacant space," she said. "But we'll be scouting out some new potential locations as well."

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