The Smith St. storefronts being used as storage between Sackett and Union are a HUGE problem. While they may be a short term win for individual landlords, they are terrible for other landlords and business owners on the street. If I owned property or an operational storefront near that stretch, I'd grab a pitchfork and try to run those bum landlords out of town. These empty storefronts are crushing the ability of local business owners to be their most successful.
It's simple: retail works best when it's around other retail. To the extent the retail fabric is torn -- either through vacant lots or empty storefronts -- than retail will be less successful. That's what's happening here. (There's a clear counterfactual: three blocks north on Smith St., retail is thriving.)
As long as demand for retail is depressed (and as long as depressed rents fail to attract developers) than the empty lots will remain, the crappy tents on Union and Smith won't go anywhere, and storeowners and landlords on this stretch of Smith will suffer.
So, again, get to it CB6.