Repurposing Physical Spaces

Place-based economic development focuses on turning often overlooked assets of a community into strengths for future growth. Local governments can turnaround marginalized neighborhoods into spaces ripe for innovation. Examples are grant programs for repurposing vacant buildings, permissive zoning ordinances, and incubators in marginalized neighborhoods.


Collaborative program to activate vacant storefronts in marginalized communities with transformational businesses and art installations


  • Origin: Founded in 2012 by the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation
  • Funding: Funding aggregated between the city and local foundations; $540k invested in first year of operation
  • Primarily uses “pop up” model to accomplish three main goals: 1) recruit full-time tenants, 2) spark buzz for private / public investment, 3) transform city’s marginalized business districts
  • “Pop up” model provides low-cost, low-risk opportunity to test business and repurpose infrastructure


  • Created 40 full-time jobs in its first year of operation
  • Launched four permanent retail businesses in first year
  • Created national buzz for revitalization of marginalized Detroit neighborhoods
  • Full report and research not published on program yet