Pilot Program:

Downtown Pops!


701 Front Street

  • Size: 2360 sf
  • Term: 6 months
  • Rent: 10% of sales
  • Seeking: Retail applicants

Read more and apply ↓

Program Description:

Downtown Pops! is the City's program designed to lower the barriers to entry for businesses looking to open a brick and mortar space. In addition, the program intends to reduce the risk for property owners to take on new tenants during challenging times. Through the program, the City enters a master lease with downtown commercial property owners with vacant spaces on Pacific Avenue, provides a guaranteed minimum rent, and then sub-leases these spaces to various pop-up tenants for a six-month term. Lease terms are set at a percentage of monthly sales. Long term lease options may be negotiated with the broker or property owner based on initial six-month term.

Who Should Apply?

We are seeking aspiring new retail businesses with sound business concepts, established, successful retail businesses with temporary expansion needs or looking to prototype new products or concepts, and other creative pop-ups designed to activate and invite downtown engagement. Preference will be given to local business owners, women, and people of color.

How does the lease structure work?

Selected business tenants in the program would pay to the City a percentage rent of their sales, currently set at 10%. The City, in turn, would supplement the percentage rent to meet $1/sq. ft. rent. Any additional rent collected would be reserved by the City on the tenant’s behalf to support each tenant’s future expansion into a permanent business concept. All initial lease terms will be for six months.

Calculating your Financial Projections:

  • Security Deposit: You'll pay a security deposit of $1.50 per square foot of your leased space.
    • $1.50 x 2,360 sq. ft. = $3,540
  • First Month's Rent: The initial month's rent is a flat rate of $1 per square foot.
    • $1.00 x 2,360 sq. ft. = $2,360
  • Monthly Rent Structure: Following the first month, you pay a percentage of your adjusted gross monthly sales as rent (currently set at 10%).
    • ex: You made $10,000 in adjusted gross monthly sales x 0.1= $1,000
  • Minimum Rent Guarantee: The City guarantees a minimum rent of $1 per square foot to the landlord, even if sales are low. If needed, the city will contribute to ensure the total rent reaches the minimum $1 per square foot. This provides peace of mind during slower months.
    • $1.00/sq. ft. x 2,360 sq. ft. = $2,360 Minimum rent
    • $2,360- $1,000 (your 10%) = $1,360 paid by the City to reach minimum rent
  • Growth Incentive: If your sales are strong and total rent exceeds asking price ($1.50 per square foot = $3,540), the extra amount is held to cover lower sales months or returned at the end of the lease term if funds remain.

Ready to apply?

1. Read the Downtown Pops! Prospective Tenant Program Guide

Please read the full document before beginning your application.

2. Complete your Financial Projection Spreadsheet

Download and fill in this spreadsheet to complete your financial projections.

3. Submit your information

Information must be submitted through this form. Be Prepared to include a Business Plan and Financial Statements.

How do property owners get involved?

We are seeking Downtown Santa Cruz property owners with vacant ground-floor spaces, primarily on Pacific Avenue, interested in participating in the program. Property owners can complete this interest form or contact Sarah Domondon at [email protected] to learn more and sign up.

Current Downtown Pops! Businesses:

Childish — 1122 Pacific Ave.

Inspired by her search for quality toys for her young daughter, owner Dyane Villalobos started thinking about the idea of starting her own toy store. Villalobos’ vision is to create a clean, modern and welcoming space that celebrates the magic and wonder of toys, and offers a family-friendly destination. As a woman-owned, minority-owned, queer-owned independent business, creating a culture of openness, inclusivity and community is core to the Childish ethos.

Read more about Childish's journey in this great Lookout Santa Cruz article!

Past Downtown Pops! Businesses:

M.K. Contemporary Art (Formally Curated by the Sea) — 703 Front Street

Founded in Capitola Village in August of 2019, Curated by the Sea (now M.K. Contemporary Art) regrouped and relocated to a light filled, 4,600 sq. ft. empty storefront in the heart of downtown Santa Cruz. The gallery represents the work of 30+ local and regional artists as well as exhibit a rotating series of themed shows and special events.

Stripe — 1528 Pacific Ave.

A staple in the Downtown design community, Stripe held a temporary pop-up at 1528 Pacific Ave. as they reimagined their Walnut Avenue space. Owner Suna Lock led the brand's transition from an airy boutique carrying apparel, gifts & vintage items to a thoughtfully curated showroom, focusing on the brand's roots of design, homewares and furnishings. You’ll find both new and old, familiar things in their newly reimagined space at 107 Walnut Ave.

RREVV Gallery — 1349 Pacific Avenue

RREVV is an artist-run gallery, featuring industrial chic leather handbags and accessories, custom furniture, bespoke lighting, jewelry and other local art. Artists Rachel and Rigel Hunter opened the gallery on Pacific Avenue in December 2021, featuring their personal work along with revolving guest artists.

Terra and Self — 1349 Pacific Ave

Terra and Self is a sustainable skincare brand focused on celebrating all beauty through fun and simple formulas. Owner Kenne Johnson-Scianna created Terra and Self not to be a brand that “makes” you beautiful, but one that sees your beauty now and celebrates who you are, uniquely and naturally. The Terra and Self shop will not only feature products created by Kenne herself, but also goods from other local women of color-owned businesses.