By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Apr 22, 2012 at 9:10 AM

The Shops of Grand Avenue will soon use its space in an innovative new way. Former individual retail spaces will become shared, collaborative space on the west end of the mall, featuring vendors, artists and designers who will lease space collectively.

The concept is called Pop-Up at The Shops of Grand Avenue, a program developed by The Shops of Grand Avenue and MiKE, Innovation in Milwaukee, an initiative of the Greater Milwaukee Committee. The goal of Pop-Up is to generate retail growth both in the mall and beyond in Downtown Milwaukee.

"Pop Up stores are a retail concept that is sweeping the nation. Cities such as Pittsburgh, Washington DC and Portland have been using pop up stores to brighten vacant spaces, encourage local retail opportunities, and inject creative life into districts," says Tracy Korpela, marketing and specialty leasing director for the program.

There will be an open house on Thursday, April 26 at 6 p.m. next to Radio Shack for anyone interested in finding out more about the opportunities.

Basically, 10 vacant spaces are available on the second floor of the New Arcade building, ranging from 560 square feet to 5,000 square feet. Anyone interested in renting a portion of one of the spaces will fill out an application and later get interviewed by the development team that consists of Korpela, Laurel Osman and Leah Fiasca.

The Grand Avenue's management policy requires that one person signs the license agreement and they are then allowed to have other tenants share the space with them.

"Pop-Up is designed to increase collaboration, so the developmental team will ensure that each space has a great fit of artists and vendors. We will also help match people together since we fully realize that some artists and vendors have really strong networks and some simply do not," says Korpela.

Leases are available for three months, six months or one year. The rents are based on square footage and can be as low as $100 per month. The minimal rents include the trash removal fee and the base rent itself. Tenants will be responsible for their own utilities.

Pop-Up stores generally exist in struggling malls, but the concept has been used in fully occupied malls as well. They add an interesting and innovative aspect to mall shopping.

According to research, there are 81,947 workers within a one-mile radius of the mall, 97,000 students and 15,000 residents. These numbers suggest that, with the right tenants, the Shops At Grand Avenue could be vibrant again.

"There is a huge lack of unique retail options in Downtown Milwaukee, particularly on West Wisconsin Avenue. We firmly believe that downtown retail can work if it is the right retail, and we are on a mission to find what works," says Korpela. "We want to complement the West Wisconsin Avenue Task Force committee efforts by orchestrating a program that will jump start retail, and the Shops of Grand Avenue is the perfect canvas."

Korpela says she was inspired at a networking event a couple of weeks ago. She met a woman and told her where she worked, and the woman said "The Grand Avenue is up and coming!"

Korpela says she was "floored" by the statement because The Grand Avenue hasn't actually been up and coming in years. However, the statement reminded her that there are people out there who have a positive perception of the mall and still have faith in its possibilities.

"Pop Up is only going to further substantiate that statement. An untraditional perfect storm has been brewing under this roof. Ambitious young professionals who care deeply about their city, with very limited resources and a huge amount of creativity. We are actually ahead of the curve with this program since the traditional shopping center model will eventually be obsolete," she says.

Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.