WOONSOCKET â€“ A new approach to hooking up commercial and retail tenants with downtown rental spaces will be spearheaded this weekend by NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley.
â€śThe Woonsocket Main Street Open Houseâ€ť is â€śfirst and foremost an effort to fill vacancies,â€ť said Ainsley Cantoral, director of resource development for NeighborWorks, a private, non-profit agency in the city.
In one fell swoop, anyone interested in starting a business or running an office on Main Street will be able to tour the entire stock of available spaces that are in rent-ready condition on Saturday morning, Cantoral said.
The idea is to allow potential suitors to find a spot with as few phone calls and repeat trips to the area as possible to canvass the inventory. The more legwork would-be tenants have to do to find rental space, the more likely they are to give up.
â€śThis has been done with a great deal of success in other communities,â€ť says Cantoral. â€śPlus by doing this we can collect contact information from potential tenants so hopefully weâ€™ll be able to plug people in and provide them with spaces that meet their needs quickly when they become available.â€ť
The event begins at 8 a.m. Saturday in City Hall, 169 Main St., with registration and refreshments, followed by a series of presentations offering advice on launching a business, incentives offered through the city, market data about where the demand is, and a primer on the dos and donâ€™ts of retailing from the proprietor of Timeless Antiques & Collectibles, 30 Main St.
Tours begin at 10 a.m. Participants will be given a map and may stroll off on their own to look at properties, or they can follow one of the guides on hand to a specific location.
Cantoral said fewer than a dozen rental spaces met the criteria for the tour, meaning they are ready to rent, or soon could be. There are a substantial number of other vacant locations on Main Street that wonâ€™t be included in the tour because they need too much work.
It was easy to canvass property owners to develop a list of rentables, said Cantoral, but it will be more challenging to get the attention of potential out-of-town suitors. Thatâ€™s why NeighborWorks has partnered with the state Economic Development Corporation, the Small Business Development Center at Johnson & Wales University, the Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce, and others to get the word out.
â€śItâ€™s a good thing,â€ť says Economic Development Director Matt Wojcik. â€śThere are probably some people who havenâ€™t been in Woonsocket in so long they probably donâ€™t have any idea whatâ€™s here.â€ť
The open house is an offshoot of the Commercial Corridors Program, funded in part by the state chapter of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, a national non-profit that supports residential and commercial property development. Last year, NeighborWorks hired Main Street â€śManagerâ€ť Shane Culliton to run the program.
Cantoral said the open house overlaps with other marketing efforts focused on the downtown area that have been coming out of City Hall recently, including the Main Street Livability Plan.
â€śWeâ€™ve obtained some grants that the city isnâ€™t eligible for, and theyâ€™ve received some that NeighborWorks couldnâ€™t get,â€ť she said. â€śThis is a great way for us to piggyback off some of the things that are happening in the areas of economic development and planning at City Hall. They really complement each other. I think weâ€™ve really made Main Street a focus again.â€ť
For more information contact Culliton at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call him at 401-633-2659.