Filling Empty Spaces The BEST Way Possible

Empty storefront at The Hue
The Hue storefront on January 29th

A fun scavenger-hunt style post series I have are a few that talk about empty storefronts in downtown that should be filled with businesses. The latest was written back in May 2011 and I don’t think it’s been long enough for an update. Click on the link to visit that conversation and previous years:

There’s a new twist on the space filling front in downtown Raleigh and it’ll be unveiled during February’s First Friday, coming up on the 3rd. Beautifying Emerging Spaces Together, or BEST, has been meeting up for the past few months and they are ready to show off their first installment.

But before I get into that, I need explain what BEST is exactly. From a post on the Raleigh DLA blog, Donna Belt writes:

Two months later, I’m ready to introduce BEST, a team of Downtown Raleigh residents, business leaders and artists who have come together with the mission of BEAUTIFYING EMERGING SPACES TOGETHER. Our vision has morphed and grown according to the imagination and individual skills of each person who has joined our table, often over coffee at the Wilmoore Cafe.

With these empty spaces creating gaps around our downtown the question arises about what can be done while we wait for the businesses to invest in them?

In my mind, an empty space adds nothing to the sidewalk experience. It’s not interactive. There’s no reason to stop and stay awhile. People just pass on by and ignore it. Rather than wait for a shop or restaurant to come, why not activate the spaces until that business sets up one day?

The BEST team is putting that together and property owners are at the table with artists, residents, and business leaders. The idea is for the team to work within the current bounds, be it financial, legal, etc., and try to do something, anything that is allowed in the space. Art installations may be first but down the road, who knows.

The main point, and one of the big reasons why I’m into this project, is that it is a community driven project. Some readers may be aware of last year’s Mordecai Barbershop Art Gallery installation, a collaboration project between citizens of the Mordecai neighborhood and the property owner. A face lift was given to an empty space on Person Street made possible entirely on volunteers from the community. This is a grassroots example of taking pride in where we live and doing something to enhance the places we go by all the time.

I wish the BEST of luck to the team and look forward to the growth of the project.
Beautifying Emerging Space Together logo
Read about BEST on the project website,
Follow BEST Raleigh on Facebook.

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  1. Thanks, Leo, for your support of BEST! Even today as we were installing the art at The Hue, people were stopping by to look at the art and ask questions about who we were. Our goals of connecting neighbors and creating community were being realized on the spot.

    I love the idea of transforming “empty” into “filled with potential”, which is how I invite everyone to view vacant storefronts.

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