Experts seek use for empty spaces

By Alexandra Newlove

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Out-of-town experts are here to offer advice on making exciting things happen behind the "for lease" signs that characterise Whangarei's inner city. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Out-of-town experts are here to offer advice on making exciting things happen behind the "for lease" signs that characterise Whangarei's inner city. Photo / Michael Cunningham

Making use of the prime spaces languishing behind Whangarei's many "for lease" signs will be discussed at a workshop this week.

The vision is a city where passers-by can pop into a temporary gallery, see a unique performance or take a community class in a shop or office which would otherwise sit empty.

CBD regeneration experts Sophie Jerram and Mark Amery will speak to business people, council staff and the public in Whangarei about their project Letting Space, which since 2010 has seen disused spaces come to life in Wellington, Porirua and Dunedin in collaboration with landlords and local councils.

The pair reason that empty shops dishearten the public. Allowing them to be used temporarily for community and creative projects also benefits landlords as it encourages people into the area and showcase the spaces themselves, potentially attracting permanent tenants.

Northland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Tony Collins said the workshop was a great opportunity to hear from people adept at tackling a problem rife in Whangarei.

A Northern Advocate survey of the city's 10 main streets and The Strand Arcade last week found 50 empty shops, compared with 40 when the same count was conducted in January last year.

"This event is a great opportunity to get a wide variety of stakeholders in one place," Mr Collins said. "With the view of coming up with some collaborative solutions or activities that can complement the infrastructure investment already undertaken by the WDC."

Company of Giants was hosting the workshop with the chamber and Creative Northland. COG's Ash Holwell said the CBD was a "massive focus for the life of our city right now".

"The workshop [is] a wonderful opportunity for us to learn from some of the leaders in the field, and work together to find out what might have similar success here," he said.

The meeting is at 116A Bank St at 1pm tomorrow. To book contact bookings@companyofgiants.co.nz.

- Northern Advocate

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