miLES opens underused storefronts to new possibilities, with classes, events, co-working, and short-term space rentals. We work with residents, artists, businesses and landlords in the Lower East Side to identify, program and fill underused spaces and turn them into vibrant community hubs for working, learning, connecting, and starting up new projects.
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miLES opens storefronts to possibilities. Achieving this takes diverse perspectives, personalities, and expertise. We are fueled by our people—an interdisciplinary group of dreamers, realists, educators, designers, and career theorists. Through our initiative we foster creative and economic opportunities for our storefronts, our neighborhoods, and our city.
Eric is a licensed architect finding himself at the intersection of design and social entrepreneurship. He sees architecture as a dialogue that facilitates engagement between people and their environment. Eric founded miLES in early 2012 and has been passionately leading its development from an idea into an innovative practice. In his spare time, you can find Eric looking for inspiration in the LES.
Chloe is an enthusiast of personal development and a practitioner of change management. She believes that there is no failure, only feedback. A founding member of miLES, she has taken on various roles since its inception, currently crafting its organizational vision and narrative. She loves serendipitous encounters, philosophical conversations, and is learning to embrace her fondness of contemplation.
Sarah’s background is at the intersection of design, technology, and international development. Trained in finance, design thinking, and ethnography, her work spans a variety of areas, from poverty alleviation to human rights. Sarah has been involved with miLES since it was just a concept on OpenIDEO and now helps with strategic direction, fundraising, and public facing communications.
Alex is a visual and interaction designer with experience in both corporate and startup environments. She started her career in management consulting, but now uses those skills to redesign user experiences. Alex is working with the miLES team on design, UX and branding. She is always looking for her next great cup of coffee and loves wandering the LES seeking undiscovered hotspots.
Lee-Sean is an artist, designer, and educator. He works with communities to expand their sense of the possible by unleashing the transformative power of art, culture and design. He is working with miLES as a creative and strategic advisor. He spends a lot of time in the LES training capoeira and working as the social media director for the New York Capoeira Center on Suffolk Street.
Megan’s background is in media, organizing, and strategy development. She is inspired by artists, farmers, truth-tellers and resilient communities. She is working with the miLES team on strategy and community outreach. Megan originally fell in love with the LES when she came to New York for a jazz studies program and is now thrilled to work in the neighborhood.
Nora is an architectural designer and researcher. She enjoys contemplating how architects can move beyond traditional boundaries and engage pressing social and environmental issues. As a miLES Design Fellow, Nora visualizes new pop-up futures for underutilized storefronts and spaces. She finds great motivation for her work in the theme of the 2010 Venice Biennale: “People meet in architecture.”
Zeev’s background covers a wide array of urban development, finance and real estate investment projects in local and emerging markets. He is passionate about community based planning and geeky new finance models for urban infrastructure and investment. Zeev has traveled the Gowanus Canal by canoe more than five times. As a miLES Strategy Fellow, Zeev works on partnership and deal structuring with landlords.
Mitch is a registered architect pursuing his graduate degree in architecture and urban design. He is currently working as a miLES Design Fellow with storefront design layouts and furniture prototyping. Mitch sees the vacancies within the urban realm as opportunities for citizen involvement, cultivating stronger community recognition and pride.
Ethan is a filmmaker and educator. He crafts cinematic stories that are personal, intimate, and honest, getting at what drives the work of social innovators and everyday people. For the past five years he has been living on the cusp of the LES and Chinatown, where he has spent over 10,000 hours eating noodles. Ethan is working with miLES as a creative advisor on video and storytelling.
Mary’s background is in co-working spaces, event management, and the visual arts. A former resident of the Lower East Side, she joined miLES as the operations manager. Mary firmly believes an idea can only become a reality once it is broken down into organized, actionable elements, and MiLES is an actionable element to positive change in the LES.
Amy is an urban planner with a background in real estate, finance and public policy. Amy is enthusiastic about urban development and using social entrepreneurship efforts for neighborhood revitalization. At miLES, Amy works on strategy and developing partnerships with businesses, property owners and the public sector.
Heidi is a social entrepreneur, natural community animator and an enthusiast of most things solar or Lean. With a background in non-profits and start-ups, she pulls off wearing a number of hats but tends towards the communication and community side of things. At miLES, she consults on social media and manages the blog. A former LES resident, she is always on the hunt for the next-great-pop-up partner, and will go on and on about miLES to anyone that will listen.
Architecture Commons is a design collaborative advocating design for the masses. They create cross-cultural and multi-disciplinary work and seek partners of common ideologies, towards creating a multitude of work that embodies the nature of our pluralistic and multiplicitous society. Architecture Commons is the leader, initiator, and founding partner of miLES.
Fourth Arts Block
Fourth Arts Block (FABnyc) was founded in 2001 as the nonprofit leadership organization for the East 4th Street Cultural District, a historic and vibrant arts corridor in Manhattan between 2nd Avenue and Bowery. Now a neighborhood-wide coalition of 28 arts and cultural groups, FAB is preserving the Lower East Side’s rich heritage and creativity. Fourth Arts Block is a founding partner of miLES.
OpenIDEO is a place where people design better, together for social good. It’s an online platform for creative thinkers: the veteran designer and the new guy who just signed on, the critic and the MBA, the active participant and the curious lurker. Together, this makes up the creative guts of OpenIDEO. IDEO, a design and innovation firm, developed OpenIDEO as a way to include a broader range of people in the design process through inspiration, concepting, evaluation and action. OpenIDEO is a founding partner of miLES.
CityAPI is a platform that aims to activate underutilized spaces in cities that are in economic decline. Taking cues from the placemaking phenomenon, it leverages energy from the arts to build community and change spaces into places according to the wishes of residents. It visualizes the city itself as a platform and as open-source so each community member has the ability to build, change and improve on the sections they interact with. CityAPI is a founding partner of miLES.
TYTHEdesign is a collaborative consulting firm that supports the needs of organizations working in the social sector. From non-profits to social ventures, they use the lens of design to increase the impact of group serving the public good.
Projective Space is a community-centered coworking space for creative entrepreneurs that choose to make their home in NYC. They are curating a growing family of mutually supportive businesses.
The Value Web
The Value Web is an international non-profit association, focused on multi-sector/multi-stakeholder collaboration in transformational projects for a more sustainable, equitable world. The Value Web designs and delivers collaborative engagements to support like-minded leaders and their organizations around the world. The Value Web’s collective experience allows their design processes to cut through the complexity found in the worlds of business, government, non-profit and civil society – and build connections at the intersections where these communities come together.
Imagination in Space
Imagination in Space is a pop up-building journalism company. We create experiences, write stories, create and execute holistic media campaigns and support beautiful contemporary projects.
SVA Design for Social Innovation
The MFA in Design for Social Innovation at the School of Visual Arts is geared toward designers looking for meaningful and engaging work through which they can make a significant contribution to society, as well as for graduates in other disciplines who want to learn to harness the power of design to create positive change and transformation.
Capstone Client of NYU Wagner
NYU Wagner educates the future leaders of public, nonprofit and health institutions, as well as private organizations serving the public sector. NYU Wagner prepares serious, talented professionals to face the constantly changing challenges of public service. miLES is a client of the Capstone Program for NYU Wagner’s urban planning students.
The Lower East Side is a neighborhood for dreamers: immigrants, artists, small business owners, and others hustling to make things happen, looking for a new start and new possibilities. While the neighborhood has gone through revitalization, gentrification, and other changes in the last few years, the median family income in the Lower East Side is $35,626, less than 50% of that in the New York City metropolitan area. There are still over 200 empty storefronts and lots in the neighborhood, waiting for ideas, ripe for activation. *
By helping to open up underused storefronts to events, classes, co-working, and “pop-up” activations, miLES strives to create vibrant community spaces, offer a temporary home for emerging projects, and provide inclusive economic opportunities for the neighborhood.
*miLES defines the Lower East Side as south of 14th Street, east of Bowery, north of Brooklyn Bridge, and west of East River, the same boundaries set by Community Board 3.
This “Airbnb For Storefronts” Is Creating New Opportunities In A New York Neighborhood.
Executive Director, Fourth Arts Block
“miLES is an innovative collaboration between designers, activists, artists, and entrepreneurs to re-imagine the ways that vacant spaces can be activated for community and creative use in the Lower East Side. We’re really excited to be a founding partner and pilot site for the program, which we hope will seed any number of new projects throughout our community!”
Deputy Director of New Museum
Co-Founder of Ideas City Festival
“What I love about miLES is it’s a group of concerned citizens brokering for social good — it’s community activism 2.0.”
“miLES was born from a desire to revitalise disused spaces and bring vibrancy back to our communities. The project is an inspiration to everyone in the OpenIDEO community as an example of how a creative community can spark a new social venture and create real impact in the world. What miLES are doing should be an example to us all of how we can take more ownership and motivate local people to get involved and become part of the solution.”
Co-Founder, The Lowline
“New York City teems with unimagined possibilities, neighborhood by neighborhood, block by block, lot by lot. The miLES team is helping Lower East Siders drive value out of unused spaces, offering opportunities to make the neighborhood even more vibrant and accessible than it is today.”
Adjunct Professor in Urban Planning
NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service
“The miLES team is passionate about and committed to the Lower East Side community and understand that, for this program to be truly successful and take root here, it must address the needs of building owners, business owners and local residents and visitors.”
Faculty, The Cooper Union School of Architecture
“miLES will create a series of invaluable spaces in the Lower East Side and help showcase the work of influential groups of artists, writers and many others living and working in this neighborhood. It is a phenomenal opportunity to the city.”
Executive Director, Clemente Soto Velez Cultural & Educational Center Inc
“I am lucky to be Executive Director of a gorgeous late 19th century former public school, recently renovated, but with rather neglected looking large Gothic windows. Then Eric Ho of miLES appeared as the ideal person to imagine with us how to link buildings and people, insides and outsides, insiders and outsiders, artists with passersby – in short, Eric and all that miLES represents is that fusion of past, present, and possibility that we all need to keep our streetscapes vibrant. I look forward to a long relationship with miLES.”
Entrepreneur, Co-founder, KNO Clothing
“We’re very excited about miLES! Their spaces will provide wonderful opportunities for entrepreneurs and it will also help improve local communities.”
Scott Taylor and Sylvia Heisel
Artists and Residents of Orchard Street
“We applaud miLES for their vision: bringing together the opposites of urban development including building owners, artists and the community to create an answer to the blight of vacant storefronts and empty lots – everyone wins.”
Resident of Attorney Street
“The miLES crew has given birth to a great new idea for connecting artists and other producers with storefronts, gardens and other spaces. And they have put long-term effort into collecting ideas from anyone and everyone in the community, as to what they might like to use vacant spaces for. This sort of innovation, collectivism, and creativity is what I love about the LES. It’s great to see young groups like this continue that legacy in new ways.”
Resident of Attorney Street
“After having spent 10+ years living in the LES, it’s extremely refreshing to come across an organisation such as miLES that will not only make good use of empty space, but will offer a platform of opportunity for an already vibrant community. I believe miLES will be essential for the sustainability of a creative culture in the LES.”
One Prize 2012 Jury
Jury Led by New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn
“There was widespread enthusiasm among jury members for the project’s focus and dedication to the involvement of multiple stakeholders, to its positive impact on the neighborhood, its bottom-up approach and compelling feasibility.”
Excerpts from Jury Comments:
Real Estate Developer, Executive Director and Founder, Macro Sea
“miLES not only stood out for creating an access point and crowd-sourcing lots but also making resources available.”
President and CEO, Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation
“miLES provides win-win for individuals, businesses and landlords and has the potential to become a long-term part of interesting viable communities.”