Creating public benefit through innovative, community driven empty shops projects.
Neighbourhoods are blighted by empty shops, offices and other commercial properties which sit unused, providing no benefit to landlords, neighbouring businesses or community. Our solution is to act as an intermediary, acting as a centralised leaseholder and manager, to 'unlock' these properties for temporary, pop-up projects which benefit the community. The building is returned to the landlord when a commercial purpose is found, creating value from otherwise interim waste, resulting in greater resource efficiency in cities.
The activation of these empty spaces rejuvenates high streets and public spaces, increasing footfall and the appearance of neighbourhoods which in turn benefits existing businesses.
Large scale physical redevelopment projects focused on outside investment, often risk displacement. 3Space believes that economic development is best delivered by creating a platform to build capacity and change from within the existing community. Through use of otherwise empty buildings community groups, social enterprises and start-up businesses are provided with a low-risk opportunity to trial new projects, test ideas and engage with new audiences, leading to an increase in employment and economic development.
Local government is given the opportunity to facilitate new projects which benefit their citizens, who in turn are given the opportunity to engage with a range of new services and businesses which make use of this otherwise empty property
Since the 2008 global financial crisis and the resulting crash in the Spanish property market, retail sales have continued to fall. It was reported in January 2013 that Spain's retail sales have fallen for the 30th month in a row as the nation continues to suffer from a deep recession and high unemployment, which currently stands at roughly 26% overall, with joblessness among young people topping 55%. This figure, the highest since the mid-1970s, follows Spain's prolonged recession and deep spending cuts.
However it is not just the state of the economy, the biggest impact has been from the dramatic change in the ways that people use their high-streets and shopping districts. The increasing popularity of internet shopping and the rise of malls, out-of-town retail parks and supermarkets has contributed to the steady rise in vacant commercial properties across our towns and cities.
Retailers will continue to consolidate their portfolios to match this structural industry change, resulting in less demand for physical retail space. The problem will be greatest in secondary and tertiary locations, which are also often the most economically and socially deprived. These locations will need to find alternative uses and ways to keep the community engaged with what is considered the heart of every neighbourhood.
We are 3Space, an innovative UK charity which unlocks the potential of empty commercial property for temporary community use. We work in partnership with landlords to offer organisations that benefit the community temporary free of charge access to multiple otherwise empty properties. 3Space member organisations make use of the buildings on an interim basis until the landlord needs them for commercial or redevelopment purposes.
These empty properties have the potential to act as a valuable community asset, and by 'unlocking' them, cities can create a testing ground for a diverse range of community driven projects, boosting economic growth as footfall increases in neighbourhoods, while creating opportunities for citizens to develop projects which will benefit society as a whole.
Along with this, the activation of empty units also presents a number of benefits to both landlords and local councils. 3Space, acting as an intermediary, has developed an easy-in easy-out system and control mechanism that reduces the risk for landlords whilst simplifying the process for the end user. This has brought greater fluidity to the property industry, and by providing a solution aimed at multiple properties it presents a scalable and sustainable response to the empty shop problem
Our previous projects have already proven in the UK that they can not only kick-start the economy of struggling neighbourhoods, but can also act as a valuable tool for social inclusion and community involvement
Impact on economy
Empty shops can act as a testing ground for new organisations and business models. High rents and rates on commercial properties can often deter growing businesses and alternative uses, and so where reduced-rent property is made available, new businesses and organisation can be allowed to test new ideas. Having access to a building can act as a form of empowerment to local citizens, and a place where people feel comfortable to learn new skills, leading to higher employment and community output.
Similarly, while landlords of these vacant properties may not gain rental income, they can benefit from the activation of their empty properties in other ways. Users of these spaces will often invest time and funds into making the property more attractive, and maintenace and secruity costs are greatly reduced. For a location in transition, the use of multiple buildings in this way has the potential to deliever organic regeneration and perception change, increasing property values in the longer term.
Enabling a diverse range of short-term projects in one area also creates opportunities for resource sharing and collaboration between businesses and sectors, creating a more sustainable model for the use of local resources. Increasing footfall to neighbourhoods also benefits existing businesses, as new audiences are introduced to neighbourhoods, and empty shop activity acts as a marketing tool demonstrating the economic strengths of a particular location.
Impact on culture
The activation of empty spaces generates a positive impact on culture in a variety of ways. The properties themselves have proven an excellent base for creative projects, and previously empty properties in the UK have played host to pop-up theatres, art galleries, rehearsal spaces for dance, drama and music, as well as experimental creative projects such as art installations and immersive theatre. Creating more opportunities for citizens to experience and immerse themselves in cultural activities can act as a catalyst for the broadening of local creative projects which benefit districts and neighbourhoods. Local artistic and cultural expression can be given the opportunity to develop through easier public access to events, performances, training and workshops which can be run in otherwise empty properties.
The use of previously empty spaces brings an improvement in the appearance of an area, as disused shops and spaces are brought to life, and citizens are given the opportunity to reconnect with and find new meaning in their public spaces.
Impact on ecology
Facilitating short term use of otherwise empty property provides an opportunity for neighbourhoods to create social benefit from existing resources, re-imagining space for new and transitional purposes.
All cities are experiencing increased population growth along with dwindling resources and reduced capacity to support this growth. Making use of otherwise empty buildings means greater resource effeciency, with social value being created from an otherwise wasted empty space.
Enabling a diverse range of short-term projects in one area also creates opportunities for resource sharing and collaboration between businesses and sectors, creating a more sustainable model for the use of local resources.
Impact on politics
The unlocking of empty spaces allows citizens to reconnect with their cities and urban spaces, creating an environment where people can take ownership of and contribute towards society.
An intermediary and controlling manager of a portfolio of otherwise empty spaces in one location enables different types of uses to be aligned with local government objectives. For example, if there is a particular drive or government initiative to reduce youth unemployment, then uses for spaces which focus on education, skills, training and entrepreneurship for young people, could be facilitated.
Organisations working with 3Space have provided services and innovative solutions, in otherwise empty buildings, for issues which are high on the political agenda, including health, youth engagement, unemployment and education.
Centralising the control of multiple empty spaces also creates a low cost mechanism for local governments to test viability in several locations, prior to making major decisions, e.g. on rezoning or large scale infrastructure investment.