Helping fill vacant downtown storefronts has been the mission of Activated Spaces, a part of the Greater Downtown Dayton Plan, since its pilot program in 2011.

“It’s building momentum as people recognize it,” says Elise Huelskamp, volunteer chair for Activated Spaces.

She says that Activated Spaces drives economic development in downtown Dayton by giving entrepreneurs an easy way to start their business.

Originally, the program had two phases, which were led by volunteers.

Phase one of Activated Spaces begins with The Street Team, which works with local property owners and artists to beautify empty storefront windows with a creative display. The second phase matches downtown property owners with potential tenants, who sign on for a short-term, low-risk lease. Now, Activated Spaces is adding a third phase, as pop-up shops have phased into long-term leases.

Jen Cadieux, business development director at the Downtown Dayton Partnership, says that the program opens applications twice a year, in May and September, and they receive anywhere from 15 to 20 applicants per round.

“From where we started to where we are now, we didn’t think it would be this successful,” says Huelskamp. “I never thought that our pop-up shops would become permanent tenants.”

So far, Activated Spaces has opened 16 shops, 11 of which are still in business—two of which are expanding—and it has created a total of 29 jobs.