It’s 12 months now since the excellent Meanwhile Use for London research report was published as part of the London City Resilience strategy. Written in the depths of COVID, its purpose was to explore the opportunities and barriers facing setting up Meanwhile use projects in the capital.
It’s a great and insightful piece of work with some really key recommendations that aligns with our experience of turning disused spaces into cultural opportunities. If we had to pick 3 main takeaways from the report, these are the 3 transformative changes we’d like to see happen.
1) Create a clear city wide Meanwhile Use Strategy
This is fundamental, and doesn’t only apply to London it is relevant to any urban centre. At the moment there is a cultural shift happening as the long term effects of COVID are felt in our change of attitudes towards retail and city centre offices. There are lots of Meanwhile Use opportunities occurring for sites slated for development, as well as transitioning retail spaces but there is no central strategy to try and maximise the potential of those sites. Activate one site into a popup and you’ve got a standalone business, make a concerted effort to encourage experiential Meanwhile Use across a number of sites in the same area and you start to build a community, a destination and a shared audience.
Couple this with council led funding support to activate spaces in deprived areas, and council assistance matching Meanwhile Use actors, investors and property owners and we’ll start to see some serious regeneration.
2) Create a database of Meanwhile Use Opportunities and standardised terms.
In SO many ways this would be the holy grail for so many companies involved in activating meanwhile use opportunities. At the moment finding suitable space is like a treasure hunt finding the proverbial needle in the haystack. Some of the best spaces we’ve encountered have been discovered by someone who just happened to be passing it, thought it looked empty and then went on a mission to discover who currently owned it and what they were doing with it.
Then when you find the perfect space, negotiating the deal can be tortuous. Some property owners are confused about enquiries about Meanwhile Use, and often won’t offer terms any different from a well funded retail client. So much time is wasted!
Wouldn’t it be amazing if there was a published framework setting out the expectations on both sides so potential spaces could be advertised with ‘Standard Meanwhile Use Terms’ where both parties then knew what to expect eg. discounted rent for a limited length lease for a project that offered security for the property and benefits to the local community.
3) Make Meanwhile Use a condition of planning.
Now this really would be revolutionary! Imagine that there was a legal duty to continue use of properties or land whilst in the planning & financing stages of development. We would see an energetic partnership between property developers and cultural and community led ententrenpers creating commercial and creative opportunities rather than boarded up and dark locked buildings. With real estate at such a premium in cities such as London, we really shouldn’t be allowing perfectly good buildings to lay empty and dormant whilst developers decide what to do with them.
Entourage are passionate about activating and creating cultural opportunities out of Meanwhile Use Space. We work in partnership with creative organisations to realise their ideas in unusual spaces. Contact us if you have an idea, a project or a property you’d like to discuss.