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A call for innovative use of vacant space in Wellington city

A call for innovative use of vacant space in Wellington city

Java Dance Installation in Newtown, December 2013. Image: Gabrielle McKone

More innovative Wellingtonians now have the opportunity to use empty retail space in the central city thanks to the Urban Dream Brokerage.

With new funding confirmed this month from Wellington City Council and Wellington Community Trust, the Urban Dream Brokerage allows innovation and diversity to flourish by brokering the use of vacant space. Everyone with ideas - artists and designers, community groups, social entrepreneurs and fledgling businesses - are invited to propose or pitch ideas for interacting with the city in new ways in 2014. First applications are due Friday 13 June.

“Imagine a city,” says Urban Dream Broker Helen Kirlew Smith, “where everyone feels represented. Where, like the traditional high street, community and businesses exist side by side. This is an opportunity for locally-grown businesses and groups with original ideas to involve the public in their thinking and work. For the city’s future health, our streets need to reflect our diversity. A city’s resilience is determined by how it responds to its changing circumstances.”

Established by Letting Space, Urban Dream Brokerage ran as a pilot over the last 15 months. The Brokerage placed 15 creative projects into vacant retail spaces around the city. These included a community cinema (People’s Cinema, still going), a former ASB Bank site where the public could deposit their mood and consider the collective mood of the city (Moodbank), a waiting room in Cuba Mall (The Waiting Room), innovative theatre productions, a jewellery workshop and exhibition space in Willis Street (Occupation Artists), and a space displaying hundreds of wedding dresses where the public were asked their views on marriage on the eve of the passing of the Marriage Amendment Act (Brides).

Mark Farrar, from Council’s funding team says, “the Urban Dream Brokerage gives Wellington innovative and exciting public art, helps our creative industries and asks provocative questions about social and cultural issues.”

The Brokerage is now also working with community groups and fledgling enterprises thanks to wider support from the City Council and Wellington Community Trust.

“This means we are able to bring empty spaces to life for more people and bring new tenants for property owners,” says Kirlew Smith. “The use of these spaces reduces vandalism and graffiti and many of our projects lead to new tenancies for these buildings.”

The businesses of the creative people who use these spaces have also been developed. Jewellery studio Occupation Artists, for example, has now taken up a long term lease.

Over the last four years statistics from Colliers International show that, while there has been recent growth in retail spending, there has also been a steady increase in retail and other commercial vacancies, with most of that increase in the heart of the CBD. The most recently published figures show vacancies at 13.7%.Proposed projects for the Urban Dream Brokerage need to be unique, innovative, bring life to the city and be open to the public. Projects may be temporary one-off trials or designed to be ongoing. “Our job,” says Kirlew, “is not to replicate what already exists. This is an opportunity to develop new ideas with the public”.

Project proposals can be submitted on the Urban Dream Brokerage website: www.urbandreambrokerage.org.nz or by emailing Helen Kirlew Smith at urbandreambrokerage@gmail.com for more information.


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