By Matt Kempner, AJC

The commotion on Mitchell Street amazed passerby Lavina Vance.

“They’ve got balloons and music playing. There are people out walking. They’ve got food trucks,” she gushed to a friend after seeing a string of new shops.

The little jolt of shopping activity is temporary for a long-neglected stretch of south downtown Atlanta. But some see it as a hint of far bigger things to come.

A developer gave eight pop-up shops rent-free space in formerly shuttered storefronts. The pop-ups launched last week in buildings erected more than 100 years ago as hotels near what was once the city’s bustling train station.

The new retailers — offering everything from custom-made hats to cold-pressed juices to a young local designer’s line of women’s clothing — will stay open through July. They’re supposed to be generating buzz and giving retailers and customers a taste of the area’s promise.

Developer Newport US plans to renovate the buildings and others nearby. It expects to fill them with restaurants, offices, shops and apartments.

It’s been decades since most of south downtown flourished. Yet it is a short walk from places teeming with people: federal office buildings, CNN Center, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta city hall, courthouses, Fulton County offices, Georgia’s state capitol.

Sidewalk traffic, modest as it was for Newport’s pop-ups on launch day, surprised some downtowners, including Vance, a hospice nurse whose office is two blocks away. She regularly takes lunchtime walks down Mitchell, but never stopped because, she said, it didn’t seem like there was much to stop for.

Jennifer Glaze, who works at city hall and lives on Atlanta’s west side, remembered how in the 1970s she and her friends would love to come downtown and ride a bus along Mitchell Street.

“We really need to revitalize the city,” she said. “It used to be alive.”

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