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Downtown Shreveport developers seek retailers for rent-free storefront program

Kate Archer Kent

The Shreveport Downtown Development Authority is gearing up for a second Pop UP project.

This time, a vacant, turn-of-the-century building in the central business district will be filled with 6,000 square-feet of retailers that currently don’t have a brick-and-mortar storefront.

Business owners apply to get a rent-free space in the Pop UP. If chosen, they will operate their venture out of the Zodiag building for two weeks, according to Liz Swaine, executive director of the Downtown Development Authority.

The Downtown Development Authority and its partners on the project selected 12 businesses for the first Pop UP in May. They all turned a profit, Swaine said, but none has signed a lease in downtown.

“The guy who was selling furniture made money. The woman who was selling jewelry made money. All of them were hugely excited,” Swaine said. “When you’re looking at a space that you’re not paying rent, it’s really a great way for you to test out your products and other market concepts and make tweaks without having a lot at stake.”

The Zodiag Building was built by Herman Zodiag who founded a successful Shreveport department store in the 1870s, known as Zodiag’s Emporium. The building is one of three on Texas Street under renovation by New Orleans developer Roland von Kurnatowski. He hopes to lure prospective lessees through the Pop UP.

“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to talk to people who might be interested in our space, and working with them to get established back down in the central business district,” von Kurnatowski said.

The Pop UP will run from Sept. 22 to Oct. 3. Applications are due Aug. 25. In all, four Pop UPs are being held this year in downtown Shreveport.

At the end of the year, a business leaders’ group called the Committee of One Hundred will award a year of free rent to one of the businesses that participated in a Pop UP, according to Swaine.

Chuck Smith brings more than 30 years' broadcast and media experience to Red River Radio. He began his career as a radio news reporter and transitioned to television journalism and newsmagazine production. Chuck studied mass communications at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia and motion picture / television production at the University of California at Los Angeles. He has also taught writing for television at York Technical College in Rock Hill, South Carolina and video / film production at Centenary College of Louisiana, Shreveport.
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