Downtown Pop-up Talks Resemble ‘Speed Dating’

pop-up seekers, left, talk with real estate officials Sept. 19. Upper right is Ray Mahood, who owns many downtown properties.

The second in a two-part series of gatherings aimed at bringing more pop-up businesses to Santa Barbara’s most visible commercial corridor looked more like speed dating than real estate negotiations. 

About a dozen property owners and some 60 entrepreneurs came to the Central Library on Sept. 19 to pitch their ideas for filling some of the nearly three dozen empty State Street store fronts with something other than a “For Lease” sign. 

City administrative official Nina Johnson told the gathering in the Faulkner Gallery that entrepreneurs had three minutes each to pitch their ideas for filling some of the nearly three dozen empty State Street store fronts with something other than a “For Lease” sign. 

At the start of 90-minute “speed-pitching” event, Johnson told the entrepreneurs they had three minutes each to talk with the real estate representatives and then move on to the next one. 

Ideas ranged from jewelry purveyors to all sorts retail items and services. 

A long line formed in front of the table of Ray Mahood, owner of many downtown commercial real estate sites. He recently made a deal with a pop-up art gallery collective to lease a long- vacant State Street store front for much lease that the asking triple net lease. 

Mary Lynn Harms-Romo interviewed many visitors who wanted to ask about starting a pop-up in Paseo Nuevo. The city provided a list with color photos of available properties from the 400 block of State Street to the 1000 block and even one in La Cumbre Plaza. 

Johnson reminded entrepreneurs to keep their projects simple and as much as possible avoid construction or plumbing since that would require building permits and slow the enterprise from opening. 

One of the reasons the city is pushing pop-ups is that they would mean increased revenue around the holidays and more sales tax. 

However, while few people mentioned it, the fact is that pop-ups are by definition temporary, but long-term leases may be negotiated. 

Saying the Tuesday event seemed like “speed dating,” Mayor Cathy Murillo was on hand to thank everyone for attending. In a private interview, she noted that a subcommittee is meeting soon to discuss hiring a State Street business consultant, as voted upon by the city council earlier. 

That comes on the heels of the council’s Sept. 18 vote to expand its effort to accelerate the downtown building permitting process even though city staff reported few changes have occurred since it was started last year. 

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