By Laura McCamy

, a small business incubator that ran a successful pop-up retail cluster in Old Oakland, has signed a lease for a retail space owned by the city of Oakland at 1425 Broadway that also fronts on Frank Ogawa Plaza.

“The economic development department reached out to us to help them imagine what this space could do to activate the plaza,” Sarah Filley, co-founder of Popuphood said. “The city offered us the space so we could assist and partner with them to fill vacancies in downtown Oakland, fill the plaza with positive energy.”

Aliza Gallo, Economic Development manager in Oakland’s’ Office of Economic and Workforce Development, said she sees the incubator project as definite boost for a space in the heart of Oakland that became internationally famous during the Occupy movement.

“This partnership is to rebuild community ownership, to bring people back to the plaza,” Gallo said.

The lease agreement gives Popuphood about 4,000 square foot space rent-free for one year; in exchange, Popuphood will “host at least one public meeting, event, educational seminar or Pop-up Shop per month to encourage small business and retail development in the city of Oakland.”

Recent real estate listings for Frank Ogawa Plaza average around $2 per square foot, putting the market rent for the space leased to Popuphood in the neighborhood of $8,000 per month. By this calculation, the city is subsidizing the incubator project to the tune of just under $100,000 during its one-year rent-free tenancy.

However, as Popuphood Co-Founder Alfonso Dominguez pointed out, “The space has been empty for four years. To see empty spaces in front of City Hall is bad for the city.”

The end of redevelopment forced Oakland to discontinue its program of matching grants for façade and tenant improvements; the pop-up model provides a new means for business development.

HUB Oakland, a co-working and business incubator space, will sub-lease approximately 3,000 square feet until its permanent location further uptown is ready in October. The remaining space will become Popuphood’s first dedicated office space. HUB Oakland’s below-market rent payments will cover the costs to maintain and improve the space, while allowing HUB to give their business model a trial run.

“There is a momentum and an energy for HUB Oakland to exist. This allows us to open up our doors,” Konda Mason, co-director and CEO of HUB Oakland said.

After October, Popuphood will bring other small businesses into the incubator.

“We are approaching this as a flexible space,” said Filley, who noted that the goal of the first year is to try to understand the plaza to determine what businesses people want there. Filley said she expects future pop-up retail shops in the space will show that “downtown Oakland is open for business.”

Gallo envisions a revitalization of the 14th and Broadway area by local businesses with Oakland flair.

Steve Snider, district manager of the Downtown Oakland and Lake Merritt-Uptown Association, said he thinks the partnership with Popuphood is an excellent way to achieve this goal.

“The activation of these spaces can make a difference in enhancing the downtown corridor and attracting more businesses and more patrons,” Snider said. “I look at pop-ups like staging for homes.”

About The Author

Laura McCamy, is a freelance writer, editor and researcher, and a contributing production editor at Oakland Local. Her work also appears in Momentum Magazine and the Intuit Small Business Blog. Follow Laura on twitter @lmcwords

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