In examining the vacant storefronts of Lawrence, Massachusetts, architecture and planning firm Utile took to its blog to propose a potential, simple solution to activate storefronts and bring activity to the street: the coffee cart.
Utile presents the coffee cart as an example of DIY urbanism that works well within the temporary leasing arrangements some cities have explored in recent years. “One answer might be to borrow the entrepreneurial and life-style focused ethos of the coffee cart to attack the vacant storefronts directly. The key is to persuade often-absentee landlords to provide their ground-level space to business start-ups gratis or at very low cost.”
As for how to work with city officials to make sure such uses are up to code: “One solution might be a public policy that helps to pay for the minimum costs of getting potential coffee cart vendors into the buildings for test runs of six months or one year. These costs might include minimal electrical upgrades, new locks on doors, and an insurance policy that indemnifies building owners as much as possible.”