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Who Will Win Free Space on St. Paul Street?

Three finalists are vying for a chance to occupy some rent free space on St. Paul Street for a year for their new business.

They were chosen by a crowd of about 160 last night as part of the RetailentRochester contest.

A panel of judges will select the winner from the three finalists. Allison Wassink, who works at a downtown law firm, is proposing a grocery store called Love Local, featuring local food.

"I'd like to have the cafe as part of it to release daily specials that feature seasonal ingredients and give people ideas for recipes using seasonal items found locally and cooking demos to give them tips and allow them to interact with the chef."

Another idea is a restaurant-type concept serving food and a blend of craft beer and coffee to create a unique-tasting Split Brew.

The third finalist is proposing a The Spirit Room – a Victorian-style speakeasy with an art and literary theme.

Noah Morganstern of Hive Properties, one of the Retailent partners, said a panel of judges will select the winning proposal based on the viability of its business plan. In addition to a year of rent-free space, the chosen business will win a series of professional services (legal, marketing, accounting and interior design) to help its launch. Morganstern said Hive Properties may even offer space at a reduced rent for the contestants who don't win.

"There are three buildings we're currently developing right now that wrap around Andrews Street and goes onto St. Paul all the way to Tapas. We're hoping to fill all of those storefronts with community-inspired and community-backed entrepreneurs and businesses."

If the Retailent concept is successful, Morganstern said it may work in other parts of the city with vacant storefronts.

Beth Adams joined WXXI as host of Morning Edition in 2012 after a more than two-decade radio career. She was the longtime host of the WHAM Morning News in Rochester. Her career also took her from radio stations in Elmira, New York, to Miami, Florida.