Small, independent businesses continue struggling to survive amid soaring rents on the Pearl Street Mall and along its surrounding blocks.

But what if the problem, for some of these businesses, is that they're paying too much for space they don't need?

Sean Maher, CEO of the Downtown Boulder Partnership, says certain small retail operations may perform better in shared spaces. Instead of having to worry about paying rent on a 3,000-square-foot storefront on the mall and then filling it with product, what if businesses could chop that area into three or four parcels, and share the cost burden?

"They often only need 800 or 1,000 square feet," Maher said. "The spaces available now are just too big."