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Jul 16, 2019 5:38 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Village Mayor Proposes Plan To Turn Vacant Storefronts Into An Art Exhibit

Southampton Village Mayor Jesse Warren and Southampton Art Center Director Amy Kirwin are working on a program to turn vacant storefronts into an art exhibit. GREG WEHNER
Jul 18, 2019 8:30 AM

With just 11 days on the books as mayor of Southampton Village, Jesse Warren has proposed a plan to help make the many vacant storefronts along Jobs Lane and Main Street a little more inviting.

During a Village Board meeting on July 11, Mr. Warren said he would be reaching out to building owners with vacant storefronts to see if they would be part of an art exhibit—each displaying a piece of art in their empty front windows. While the details of the exhibit have not been hammered out, Mr. Warren said it would be a great idea to introduce a free artwork program that families or friends could walk through as they enjoy the historic streets of the village.

“We’ve reached out to the arts center … about a problem we are experiencing with a few landlords that, for whatever reason, they can’t find a tenant or are unwilling to do so,” Mr. Warren said on Tuesday, referring to the Southampton Arts Center. “We want to give landlords the opportunity to work with the community.”

He explained that he wants to reach out to the landlords of vacant storefronts and ask why they are vacant, and then see if they would like to be part of a villagewide art exhibit. If the art in the store’s window sells, the building owner would get a portion of the sale as an incentive.

“We’re trying to give them incentive, but we’re also trying to show that we are willing to work with them,” Mr. Warren said.

Southampton Arts Center Artistic Director Amy Kirwin said the idea of a villagewide exhibition is still being discussed, noting that cohesion and a theme would be the best way to approach the project.

Because the village is part of a beach community, she said, there may be a theme that ties into what Southampton Village is as a place.

“I think that does help to create more of an experience, and it becomes a sidewalk exhibition or window exhibition, like what you would see at Bergdorf’s, or something, where you have these amazing windows that are done up for the holidays,” she said. “This is kind of an opportunity to do the same sort of thing with artists. Perhaps some works are finished and installed, and others might be works in progress, and you see them being worked on.”

Getting the building owners to become involved is going to be the challenge.

Summer resident Greg D’Elia, who lives in West Palm Beach for a portion of the year, said at the Village Board meeting last Thursday that he liked the idea of a curated art exhibit, but he noted the Village Board likely will have to require stores to do it. He said in West Palm Beach, one of the business districts requires vacant stores to put paper in the window with old sketches from the 1940s and 1950s.

“I think you need to change the law here, that it’s a requirement,” Mr. D’Elia said. “We need to change this so there is uniformity with how these stores look. They have got to be required to do it.”

Mr. Warren said if the building owners are not willing to work with the village, that would be a problem. And while he doesn’t have a plan “B” that he is ready to reveal, he said he is going to allow the landlords’ response to dictate any legislation that the Village Board may want to consider.

“The goal is not to make anyone do anything they don’t want to do, but is to collaborate and work with them,” Mr. Warren said on Tuesday.

Ms. Kirwin said it was important for people to talk about the vibrancy of the village and how it is not as vibrant as it once was, because of the vacant shops.

That is not to take away from the existing shops, the arts and cultural centers and the events that the Chamber of Commerce puts on, she said.

“Seeing so many empty storefronts is really depressing,” she said. “This project is something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time, and I’m really excited about the possibility of being able to do that here—even though it’s unfortunate that those shops are empty.”

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Interesting idea!
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Jul 17, 19 6:41 AM
Wasn't this done years ago with the vacant building by Shippys? Local artists had their work displayed in the window......

Art work being on display is a great way for artists to sell their work at no cost to them. Lets please keep this for LOCAL ARTISTS to display their work . Thank you
By toes in the water (884), southampton on Jul 17, 19 7:08 AM
Good Idea. I'd love to see some of Ron Esposito's surfing photos displayed.
By Killerfrog (38), Southampton on Jul 17, 19 9:05 AM
Wonderful idea. It's also really great to see the new mayor clearly thinking outside of the box.
By Harbor Master (114), Sag Harbor on Jul 17, 19 9:32 AM
1 member liked this comment
Great idea!
By johnj (1024), Westhampton on Jul 17, 19 11:55 AM
1 member liked this comment
While overall I don't disagree with the idea, it certainly beats seeing a bunch of empty buildings, isn't there an art gallery on Jobs Lane? Just a couple of hundred feet from where this photograph was taken? Is it really fair to the gallery owner to possibly interfere with his business? Maybe if it's really limited to only LOCAL artists it wouldn't though.
By MrsD (53), Hampton Bays on Jul 17, 19 1:16 PM
1 member liked this comment
Are you serious? Is it fair we have 30 clothing stores in town competing with each other? Most ridiculous commentary!
By lursagirl (245), southampton on Jul 17, 19 6:39 PM
The Village tried this in the past and it just fizzled out. This is not a new idea. Implementing it with art that is high quality from local artists is the challenge. And getting landlords to sign on is another.
By localcitizen (110), Southampton on Jul 17, 19 2:40 PM
1 member liked this comment
Are landlords purposely not renting their properties or are the rents too high?
By metsfan2 (163), southampton on Jul 17, 19 2:53 PM
Both. The rents are too high because greedy landlords overpaid thinking they will get high rents to recoup their investment. They would rather it be vacant than get low ball rent. So they sit vacant. Stay tuned - theyll be on here to claim I’m wrong and they are suffering with low capitalization rates. Nonsense.
By even flow (1023), East Hampton on Jul 18, 19 6:28 AM
Progressive thinking. I love it. How can it hurt? Good job Mayor!
By briantymann (31), westhampton beach on Jul 17, 19 4:14 PM
Great idea.
By lursagirl (245), southampton on Jul 17, 19 6:40 PM
We need a do over on the election. That’s the dumbest idea in Southampton Village’s history. What a lazy bum. The effort should be to fill those vacancies with thriving businesses. Sticking crap in the window is not a plan for business district revitalization. You’ve been snookered.
By even flow (1023), East Hampton on Jul 18, 19 6:24 AM
Evenflow, this was done here years ago by a group of LOCAL artists. Times were different the first time around . "Sticking crap in a window" is much more productive than being a negative , name calling grump ass. Please stop with that.

Local Artists' artwork on display in the many empty stores will not only brighten the Village with some local charm will but it attract people to visit and shop.
By toes in the water (884), southampton on Jul 18, 19 7:03 AM
Your logic is flawed, starting with calling me names while suggesting that name calling is unproductive.
By even flow (1023), East Hampton on Jul 19, 19 6:43 AM
1 member liked this comment
The real question is why does one of the priciest villages in the country need "revitalization"? Maybe the village landlords need to take a look at its changing demographics and start renting to businesses like those in Hampton Bays. SH Village could use a few mutiservice stores and some nighttime hair salons.
By Babyboo (293), Hampton Bays on Jul 18, 19 7:19 AM
1 member liked this comment
There is liability associated with allowing someone to use a store. Doubt a landlord would go for this without some rental income.
By auntof9 (159), Southampton on Jul 18, 19 12:10 PM
How about offering property tax breaks to people that have had no vacancy over a certain time period as an incentive to lower rents? How about 10 years of free beach stickers for owners that keep their buildings filled? How about money from the political slush fund from the sales of our homes to help new tenants offset first year local taxes? How about fines for real estate agencies that take up every parking spot on main street? How about less aggressive parking police for people who want to ...more
By even flow (1023), East Hampton on Jul 19, 19 6:50 AM