San Francisco's Vacant to Vibrant Success: Existing Pop-Ups Extending Leases as Program Expands to Fill More Downtown Vacancies


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Mayor London N. Breed and Vacant to Vibrant partner SF New Deal today celebrated the success of the City’s Vacant to Vibrant program, which includes lease extensions for eight of the nine inaugural pop-up storefronts following a successful pilot three-month term. The City’s second cohort will be selected and announced over the course of the next few months.

Managed by the City's Office of Economic Workforce and Development (OEWD), Vacant to Vibrant launched last year in April in partnership with SF New Deal, a local non-profit organization that strengthens neighborhoods by making it easier for under-resourced small business owners to succeed.The program creates opportunities for small businesses, artists and cultural organizations to create pop-ups in vacant storefront spaces throughout Downtown.  

Building on the success of the first cohort of pop-ups, OEWD and SF New Deal are actively accepting applications for this year’s cohort to fill more vacant storefronts Downtown later this year. The next set of pop-ups will expand the program’s footprint with more locations that will be designed to offer engaging and inviting spaces and experiences.

"Vacant to Vibrant is a shining example of what can be accomplished when we work together with non-profit and community partners to deliver creative solutions to our challenges,” said Mayor London Breed. “We have the space to support our small businesses and property owners who are committed to supporting our City, and the results prove that this is working.”

Vacant to Vibrant Pop-Ups Extending Beyond Initial Three-Month Term

As part of Mayor Breed’s Roadmap to San Francisco Future, reimagining the Downtown area to regain its vibrancy is a core component of the Mayor’s strategic plan. Despite the challenges brought on and exacerbated by the pandemic, through this program, participating pop-up businesses continue to express significant interest in growing their brands or businesses in San Francisco’s Downtown footprint. 

“With Vacant to Vibrant, our local entrepreneurs, innovators and creators are showing us how to creatively reimagine San Francisco’s Downtown,” said Sarah Dennis Phillips, Executive Director of the Office of Economic and Workforce Development. “They are proving that Downtown can be a place of opportunity for artists, nonprofits, and small businesses, and their energy is creating new experiences that enliven it as a true neighborhood. We are looking forward to building on the success of this initiative with more activators and pop-ups over the next months, and with a long-term program that will keep the momentum going.”  

“In 2023, Vacant to Vibrant proved that small businesses are a key part of downtown recovery. We created a pathway for the economic and cultural vibrancy of San Francisco’s beloved neighborhoods to become a part of downtown, filling vacant storefronts in the Financial District with small businesses, artists and cultural organizations,” said Simon Bertrang, SF New Deal Executive Director. “We are pleased to announce that Vacant to Vibrant will continue in 2024. Building on the success of the program, we are bringing a new cohort downtown and expanding the reach of the program so that everyone throughout the city and across the Bay Area can envision downtown as a vibrant neighborhood full of diverse and thriving small businesses.”

OEWD and SF New Deal are continuing to work with participating tenants as many are now actively in the process of working directly with property owners to begin new lease negotiations. Current pop-up activators are also using this time to continue refining and iterating their business offers and approach, and responding to the feedback received and conditions experienced since launching in September last year.

“Vacant to Vibrant has been warmly received by the community,” Inner Sunset resident and regular downtown commuter, Pamela Armstead said. “As a decades-long San Francisco resident, the decline and blight overtaking downtown and many of our neighborhoods has broken my heart. We’re all looking for answers, but programs like Vacant to Vibrant provide real, practical solutions towards getting back our quirky city and the independent businesses that make it thrive. I’m excited and hopeful that programs like this exist—let’s fill these empty spaces and get our city back!”

“The future of San Francisco is really bright, and I want to be a part of the revitalization,” said Hilary Passman, Owner of Devil’s Teeth Bakery. “This has been an awesome opportunity to get our foot in the door. Vacant to Vibrant got us into a space that we never could have gotten into pre-pandemic, and has brought many new and diverse businesses Downtown.”

“It’s been great to be a part of Vacant to Vibrant, and to be engaging in discussions about creating lasting impact and change Downtown through the program. KALW has done a great job bringing a new and exciting community to the Mills Building through interactive and engaging programming. The vibrant art displays by Creativity Explored and Bee Betwee have enlivened the space. We’re looking forward to continuing the conversation about what is possible moving forward,” said Stacia Keisner, Vice President, Asset Management of The Swig Company.

Applications remain open for small businesses, artists, nonprofits and others interested in bringing a pop-up to Downtown through the program, as well as for property owners and managers interested in hosting a pop-up in their space through the program. Applicants can apply via the program’s website until February 23, 2024 for consideration in the next cohort. Applicants who have previously applied who were not selected in the inaugural cohort will automatically be considered in the coming round. 

Vacant to Vibrant is a new program for SF New Deal and for the City of San Francisco, and the feedback and experiences shared by participants in the inaugural cohort are shaping the continued evolution of the program. Each participant in the inaugural cohort represents a unique concept, operation, and trajectory. 

Visit or call (415) 480-1185 to learn more, while following along on Instagram at @VacantToVibrant


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