Castro merchants, long frustrated by the presence of so many empty storefronts throughout the LGBTQ neighborhood but particularly on Castro Street itself, may find themselves with new neighbors, temporarily at least.An ambitious plan announced at the May 5 meeting of the Castro Merchants Association would, with the cooperation of Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District, neighborhood landlords, and grants from the Mayor's Office of Economic and Workforce Development, bring short term pop-ups to the district's long-empty storefronts. "This is the number one problem in the Castro right now," CMA Co-President Dave Karraker told meeting attendees.Empty storefronts have plagued the neighborhood for years now, as the Bay Area Reporter detailed more than four years ago.
The rise of COVID, the homelessness crisis, and a street population severely affected by mental illness have only compounded the problem.
At the end of April, the beleaguered neighborhood's commercial vacancy rate stood at 21.78% said Andrea Aiello, a lesbian who's the CBD executive director.
Those figures don't include recently burned out businesses, storefronts that are vacant but under lease, or businesses outside the CBD footprint, which begins at Collingwood Street and, largely hugging Market Street, extends to Octavia Boulevard. "The idea is exactly what you think," Karraker, a gay man, told the B.A.R.