Reenergizing South Street

March 3, 2009 5:45:29 PM PST
Shopping strips across the country have fallen victim to the economic crunch, and South Street is no different.

Property owners, landlords and others have reached out to the creative community to enliven their neighborhood; an increasing number of businesses that were open more than a year ago, have shut down and the goal of many business owners is to save South Street.

There are half dozen stores, mostly from Front to 7th Street that are now vacant.

"You see the graffiti on the stores, you see there's no light," explained Julia Zagar who is a shop owner.

But a bad economy wasn't the only thing that caused the businesses to fail.

"It was the economy and street construction at the same time."

Street repairs began last February on South Street and didn't end until just before Christmas.

"You know people that didn't have deep pockets couldn't get through the bad times, made no money last year to hold them over through the winter," said realtor Stephen Gianiscolli.

Stephen joined forces with business owners, like Howard Lander, who came up with the idea to use one of his properties to provide space, practically free to area artists. Dubbed "Arts on South" more than 200 applications were submitted for the 6 or so vacant properties. "Dumpster Divers" was the first to open on Sunday.

"The artists pay for the utilities, gas and electricity and they pay for the insurance, the liability insurance if someone falls in their space."

One vacant property sits next door to Pietro's Restaurant.

"It would be nice to have some art next door, bring people to South Street, more business for us," said manager Beri Pani.

Some buildings have enough space for groups of artists; St. March Gallery has one of the most diverse.

"It's a great opportunity for a number of reasons, one is just exposure. It's really good particularly for young artists," said Lucy Pistilli.

And others are hoping it will reenergize an entire neighborhood.

"So the whole street becomes alive again and it's so wonderful.

The various artists are being asked to sign no-rent 2-month leases, with month-to-month renewals.

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