The economic recession of the last five years has had a devastating impact on local businesses, but a new crowdfunding site aims to change that, filling empty storefronts with innovative business ideas.

Hoodstarter doesn’t just encourage people to come up with products or campaigns, but whole space concepts to spruce up the high street and get the area back up and running.

Thought up by two entrepreneurs inspired by a forum conversation about the sheer volume of empty spaces in shopping centres, the site aims to get people backing companies that want to make something good of retail and hospitality.

Founders Justin Ley and David Berglund say the idea is made up of two parts: the first is getting ideas from the community and hearing about empty retail or restaurant units that need to be filled. Citizens come up with an innovative use of the space and then the other half of the community, comprised of entrepreneurs, create pitches and then drum up interest from crowdfunders willing to contribute.

“I’m sure everyone has that moment. You see it, maybe it’s by your house or where you work,” Berglund said. “We didn’t know of a solution to that. So we put our minds to it.”

Throughout the process, Berglund and Ley advise the entrepreneurs and in some cases, will help them get additional funding from VCs to create their space-filling idea.

Hoodstarter currently only offers projects based in and around Minneapolis and Saint Paul in Minnesota, but Ley and Berglund are hoping to move out of their hometown shortly and spread around the US.

At the time of writing, the most popular projects were to fund a produce co-op in Minneapolis (posted by Ley himself), an ice cream parlour in Saint Paul and a BrewPub in the Metro area.

Hoodstarter makes money by taking a five per cent commission on any project funding.