Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Incentive Plan Aims to Bring Local Retailers to Downtown

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Incentive Plan Aims to Bring Local Retailers to Downtown

Article excerpt

In a Downtown teeming with restaurants but not a lot of stores, a move is afoot to recruit independent retailers and boutiques to spice up the options available to residents, visitors and workers.

The Pittsburgh Downtown Community Development Corp. is working with the city, developers, landlords and other stakeholders to create an "urban village" filled with cafes, bookstores, boutiques and other shops - in addition to restaurants.

"We want to build a shopping district that is not the same as a mall," said John Valentine, the group's executive director.

But independent stores and local boutiques aren't always seen as reliable tenants in the same way as, say, Starbucks or Target or CVS might be. So to help make it easier, the group plans to create an insurance program of sorts for landlords in the event a retailer goes belly up.

In deals involving fewer than 2,000 square feet of space and leases of up to three years, if the retailer defaults, the Downtown organization would pay the rent until the end of the lease term or it would find another tenant for the landlord.

It plans to create a $100,000 pot to back up the initiative. Mr. Valentine said the goal is to put local shops and boutiques on equal footing with national chains. Most landlords, he said, prefer chains because they are a better credit risk.

"This way they don't have to worry that an independent store is credit worthy," he said.

Mr. Valentine is working to line up money to create the fund. It would be replenished by charging shops a 1 percent to 2 percent surcharge on their rents.

Mr. Valentine said he already has commitments from prospective tenants that have agreed to those terms. The organization will start the program as soon as it gets the funding in place.

As part of the effort, the group's officials also are working with Downtown landlords to see whether they would be willing to offer reduced rents to local independent retailers or boutiques.

The group unveiled the retail strategy during its annual meeting Wednesday. The plan would be coupled with the creation of a task force of developers, real estate brokers and other stakeholders to find ways to improve the retail climate Downtown. …

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