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As neighborhoods in New York City continue to change, bodegas are having to update their inventory. While chips and cigarettes are still corner-store fixtures, owners are selling more fresh fruit and vegetables and organic products to keep up with the shift in consumer demographics. Coinciding with the updated interiors, the exteriors of some NYC bodegas are getting upgrades as well, thanks to a new pilot program from the city. The program, “Commercial Corridor Challenge,” aims to help fund public realm improvements for local businesses to keep them competitive amid gentrification, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Created in partnership between the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), Citigroup Community Development and the city’s Department of Small Business Services (SBS), the program subsidizes renovations at the stores, including new signs, windows and awnings.
“Change is coming,” Gregory Schiefelbein, who leads Citi Community Development for the tri-state region, told the WSJ. “We want to make sure that neighborhood institutions, people who have been invested in the community for a long time, are able to pivot.”
Grantees of the city’s Neighborhood 360° program are provided with expertise and finances to build projects that “advance their commercial revitalization efforts and build their economic development capacity.” The program’s goal is to enhance the design of storefronts to make them more welcoming, boost foot traffic and increase sales.
The program, modeled after Philadelphia’s commercial corridors, has been implemented in Staten Island and the Bronx. Three community partners (located on Fulton Street in East New York, Bay Street on Staten Island and Southern Boulevard in the Bronx) were selected for additional support from LISC to beautify commercial corridors.
Known for capturing photos of iconic New York City storefronts, many which are rapidly disappearing from the city’s streetscape, photographer duo James and Karla Murray said, as artists, they admire the design of older corner stores.
“Although we appreciate every effort that is made to help keep small businesses a vibrant part of the community, as photographers and multi-media artists, we are very fond of the unique vernacular typography and cacophony of color that older bodegas have as their signature ‘New York’ style storefront,” the Murrays told 6sqft.
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