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Community-Driven Initiative Plans to Fill Vacant LES Storefronts

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Architect Eric Ho is moving forward with his ambitious plan to fill the more than 200 vacant storefronts and lots in the Lower East Side, East Village, and Alphabet City. Last night, Ho presented his idea for Made in the Lower East Side (miLES) to the Economic Development Committee of Community Board 3, and while there were more board members than public at the meeting, the response to his project was positive. The goal of MiLES is to connect landlords of vacant properties with small businesses and community groups looking for inexpensive space to test out their ventures. This would bring new shops to the neighborhood while generating revenue for the landlords. The board members raised such questions as why would a landlord participate, who covers the utilities, who pays for insurance, how do you vet the groups wanting to use the space, and how will these groups be chosen.

Given that miLES is in its baby stages, Ho's answers were rather abstract, noting that these are all things that will be carefully considered while he does more community outreach. This fall, Ho will be setting up two prototype spaces, one on East 4th Street and another on Houston Street, to test the type of ground-up development that he envisions to see how the community would use the spaces. One will be a retail venture while the other will be a meeting space that groups could rent out, but even these spaces have not been totally fleshed out yet. If the prototypes are a success, future spaces would be designed by the individual groups or businesses wanting to use them. Ho's firm Architecture Commons is leading the initiative, and he has partnered with OpenIDEO, Fourth Arts Block, City API, Design for America, Listenin Pictures, Tythe Design, and The Value Web to make it a reality. If you want to get involved with the project, you can contact Ho through his website.
· Transforming 200 Vacant Storefronts With Grassroots Design [Curbed]
· Architecture Commons: Made in the Lower East Side [official]