YourSQFT – Space for People
YourSQFT – Space for People
Our mission is to create a seamless online platform that connects renters with short-term spaces and labor in Mid-Market. Our intention is to bolster existing business, attract new business, create employment opportunities for local residents, and bring vibrancy into the neighborhood.
YourSQFT is an online platform that connects up-start renters to short-term leases in Mid-Market, San Francisco. YourSQFT will start with a condensed Retailer Incubator Pod in a two-block area and ripple throughout the neighborhood.
The existing businesses in the Mid-Market area are primarily clothing stores, convenience or liquor stores, and pawn shops. There are also important arts and cultural outposts such as theaters and non-profit organizations that provide community services. A new set of businesses has cropped up on the fringes – bicycle shops, coffee shops and one-off restaurants. One of their major concerns of existing businesses is the existence of abandoned buildings, which are deterring tourists and other consumers from visiting the area.
The leap from being a small vendor to a permanent retailer is massive. We’ve seen a happy in-between in the realm of Food via foodtrucks. What we’re offering up-start businesses is a chance to prototype their goods without signing a long-term lease. Expansion is another use case for this space. There may be a small restaurant in the Sunset that thinks they can make it into the downtown core. We offer a low-risk option to generate demand. For those holding events, we’re offering a cool venue with labor built in. For all uses, we’re central, and the renter has the chance to be part of the revitalization of a neighborhood.
Funneling jobs to local residents is a benefit for the community, but it also makes organizing a rental easier. The workers are managed by local organizations and we profile their skills within the booking process. One pain point for workers is finding transit to their place of work. In this case, it’s walking distance. It is also important to us that this space is a place of pride for local residents. This has ancillary benefit, such as a watchful eye.
The Market Street corridor has beautiful sidewalks, and stunning architecture. The challenge is vacant buildings. Central Market suffers from higher vacancy rates than any other commercial corridor in San Francisco: approximately 30% for retail storefronts, and 50% for office space [Central Market Partnership]. Just like the residents, there is much potential, if only there was an opportunity. By transforming a vacant building, we fill a hole in the identity of the neighbourhood. We bring pride to a space that’s been neglected, and to those who live around it.
We began with local business. We understood that business is the backbone of the neighborhood. Brainstorming many different solutions, we quickly realized we couldn’t fully understand the problems faced by local businesses without doing primary and secondary research. There is comprehensive research conducted on the Central- and Mid-Market area from which we gained insight, primarily the Central Market Partnership’s “Central Market Economic Strategy” report. In addition, we visited the community, interviewed residents and business owners, and connected with key stakeholders such as property managers, renters, and community organizations focused on job placement. In doing so, the research was conclusive. The biggest problem faced by businesses in the area is vacant space, which allows for loitering and lack of upkeep.
There is a lack foot traffic because the Mid-market area is perceived as unsafe for outsiders to visit. On top of that, the income of local residents is much lower than the general populous of San Francisco. If Mid-market is ever to grow as an economy, the current monetary exchanges within the neighborhood will not be sufficient. We will need to attract higher income groups to spend money in the area.
With that said, we know gentrification is a problem when it displaces people. Early on, we set out to find a solution that would not demolish the spaces, or displace the residents, but rather embrace them as part of the solution. We eventually understood that the abandoned spaces, lack of foot traffic, and lack of jobs could all be tackled at once. By renting vacant spaces, and bundling those rentals with local work talent, we’re making space for people. Ultimately, these new pop-up businesses, events, shows, or attractions will increase foot traffic for existing business, and turn the eye-sore local merchants suffer into a destination for outsiders.
YourSQFT has been prototyped on Drupal/MySQL/PHP. The platform will rely on existing organizations to work with local residents in order to provide labour opportunities. For the renter, our focus is on creating a seamless experience to rent space and hire labor in Mid-Market. Within the purchase process, we bundle the leasing of the space with the hiring to employees from the local area.