Downtown Concierge

Retail Therapy on the Way


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Downtown Columbus

pop-columbusIt’s no secret that the downtown core needs more retail. You’ve been great to show your love to local businesses, but when will there be more? Thanks to a cooperative effort among the Gay Street Collaborative, Capital Crossroads Special Improvement District, Thirty Four Corporate and The Columbus Foundation, you’ll see more retail soon. And the cool thing is this innovative project gives retail entrepreneurs a chance to test the downtown market with very little risk.

POP Columbus, a pop-up retail incubation program, will offer entrepreneurs the opportunity to nab space for single-day events, two-month or other short-term lease options right downtown in the hub of it all in the Gay Street District. The demand is there. We’ve seen it in places like the Moonlight Market, Sunlight Market and Pearl Market.

For several years, Capital Crossroads SID wanted to help facilitate a downtown retail incubator. One of its projects, Pearl Market, provides some retail therapy in Lynn and Pearl Alleys during the summertime, and the market also gave micro businesses a chance to come downtown, but it is a huge financial jump from that to leasing a brick-and-mortar storefront.

“Retail operators who are interested in downtown tend to be small, independent and start-up retailers. They can’t afford to improve space and sign long-term leases. POP Columbus provides ready-to-occupy space and short-term leases that allow operators who can’t get financing to get a start,” said Cleve Ricksecker, executive director of Capital Crossroads SID.
A developer willing to take a risk was also needed. Enter Thirty Four Corporation and Lauren Tonti who owns and manages the space at 44 North High Street. “We are excited about the opportunity to participate in a program that will be a catalyst for downtown retail at a time when the neighborhood is undergoing so much revitalization,” said Tonti.

“The creation of a micro-retail cluster in the Gay and High Street areas will spur vibrant, street-level retail starter spaces for our local entrepreneurs,” said Lisa S. Courtice, Ph.D., Executive Vice President of The Columbus Foundation. “This innovative opportunity has the potential to improve the community by supporting new businesses and boosting economic development.”

As if there aren’t enough spinning plates to manage, the project needed another downtown champion to manage all the details now and well into the future. Walker Evans, President of the Gay Street Collaborative, a non-profit Business Association located Downtown, serves this role and is committed to make sure the program grows over time. “The long-term goal is to find a pop-up business that wants to convert to a full-time traditional retailer in the space, allowing the program to move on to focus on another nearby empty storefront.”

While the Gay Street Collaborative will administer the POP Columbus program, funding comes from The Columbus Foundation’s Fund for Financial Innovation, as well as support from Capital Crossroads SID.

Want to keep up on the project or apply for the program? Visit