Shared Space initiative seeks to vitalize Shirley Ave businesses
$122,500 state grant will launch pilot program in Revere.
March 3, 2023 : The Boston Globe, by John Laidler
Local organizations and Revere are teaming on an innovative plan to boost a city commercial area by helping small businesses and organizations share space.
Women Encouraging Empowerment, a Revere-based nonprofit, was recently awarded a $122,500 state grant to partner with the city and two other organizations — the Revere CARES Coalition and The Neighborhood Developers — on the Shirley Ave Shared Space Pilot Program.
The program offers grants and technical help to encourage existing businesses or organizations located in commercial buildings to make some of their space available to emerging entrepreneurs or community groups seeking a physical location.
The funding was awarded through MassDevelopment’s Transformative Development Initiative, which supports economic growth in selected low-income neighborhoods in 13 of the state’s 26 Gateway Cities.
“We are saying to existing businesses, can you lease a portion of your space to another business that is trying to establish itself,” said Laura Christopher, MassDevelopment’s TDI fellow for Revere.
The four participants in the space-sharing project are partnering with MassDevelopment for the TDI Initiative in the Shirley Ave neighborhood, which is home to many immigrant businesses.
Grants of $20,000 to $40,000 will be awarded for an estimated two to four space-sharing pilots. They could range from an emerging catering business using the kitchen of a restaurant during its off-hours to a gallery posting art in the window of a storefront office, or coworking space “popping up” in a nightclub during daytime hours.
Eligible uses of the grants include lease subsidies, renovations to prepare the spaces for the new tenants, and hiring consultants. Each pilot is intended to last at least three months, giving participants time to determine if their shared arrangement works.
The city is contributing $12,000 to help fund lease subsidies.
“The Shirley Ave neighborhood is a business district in Revere that is constantly growing, changing, and adapting,” Mayor Brian Arrigo said. “I am grateful to have the support of the TDI partnership and Women Encouraging Empowerment, who are working to adopt innovative solutions for the space limitations faced by the neighborhood.”
Women Encouraging Empowerment provides services to low-income women and their families, particularly immigrants, in Revere and surrounding communities, according to Olga Tacure, its executive director.
According to the latest Census figures, 41 percent of Revere’s approximately 62,000 residents are foreign-born.
Noting that its office is located in the Shirley Ave neighborhood, Tacure is glad her group is participating in a project to support small businesses there.
“We’re trying to prevent displacement,” she said. “We want people to stay and run their businesses in the neighborhood. For us, this aligns with our vision, so I’m happy and excited.”
Women Encouraging Empowerment Executive Director Olga Tacure, the City of Revere’s Chief of Planning and Community Development Tom Skwierawski, and MassDevelopment’s Transformative Development Initiative Fellow Laura Christopher are working together to support shared spaces in Revere.
Women Encouraging Empowerment Executive Director Olga Tacure, the City of Revere’s Chief of Planning and Community Development Tom Skwierawski, and MassDevelopment’s Transformative Development Initiative Fellow Laura Christopher are working together to support shared spaces in Revere. JOSEPH GARCIA
Unlike some Gateway City neighborhoods, Shirley Ave. does not have a significant amount of vacant commercial space, according to Christopher. But she said the new initiative can help prevent future vacancies by supporting existing businesses that struggle with rising rents and utility bills.
“Sharing space can help them relieve their high operating costs,” Christopher said, while also “helping drive foot traffic to the location.”
Equally important, she said, the program provides needed space for small businesses and nonprofits currently priced out of the market.
Space-sharing already takes place in an informal way in the neighborhood, Christopher said, noting, for example, that the local Elks lodge allows a Muslim prayer group to use its building for Friday prayers.