Staff photo by Steve Adams

Equal parts community center, art gallery and music venue, Downtown Crossing’s newest storefront is a leap of faith by a commercial landlord on the future of Boston retail space.

The Downtown Business Improvement District partnered with its landlord, Clarion Partners, on the transformation of a vacant storefront at 12 Summer St. into “3rd Space,” a seasonal public gathering spot which opened Thursday.

“One of our hopes is to bring more eyeballs on a prominent vacant storefront downtown to support its potential for being leased for commercial use,” Downtown BID President Michael Nichols said. “It’s our hope we put ourselves out of business.”

The Summer Street location could be the first in a series of pop-ups managed by the Downtown BID with a similar strategy, Nichols said.

The name is a nod to the sociological theory of “third places” beyond workplace and home that function to build community.

The building owner had allowed the Downtown BID to use the Summer Street storefront as back-of-house space to support programs following the departure of the most recent retail tenant, sandwich chain Pret A Manger, in mid-2020.

A pair of local arts groups have set up exhibits with social justice and equity themes.

The “Soft City” exhibition by artists Amanda Ugorji and Sophie Weston Chien uses large-scale textiles to illustrate the history of redlining and effects of climate change on minority communities in Cambridge, Dorchester and Roxbury.

And the VERS group, also known as Versatile Collaborations, is spotlighting the concept of “integrated sheltering units” at underutilized commercial spaces, providing temporary shelter and services such as baby-changing stations.

Another section includes information and public comment forms from the Boston Planning and Development Agency’s ongoing PLAN: Downtown zoning study, which is seeking to encourage more housing and density. 

The opening comes amid encouraging signs about downtown’s recovery from the drastic downturn in visitors and employees since 2020.

Foot traffic, as measured by the Downtown BID’s sidewalk activity tracking technology, has steadily increased for 25 consecutive months, Nichols said, amid a gradual increase in downtown companies’ in-office work requirements and the recovery of tourism.

Open noon to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, 3rd Space also will host weekly Thursday night events starting this week with an art sale, followed Feb. 16 with a comedy and music night including a performance by Boston Calling performers Mint Green.

Reactivated DTX Storefront Seeks to Fill ‘3rd Space’

by Steve Adams time to read: 2 min