Many of us are familiar now with the term ‘meanwhile use’ in the UK which has particular relevance towards the refitability and convertibility strategies of our project. For those unfamiliar, ‘meanwhile use’ is the temporary use of vacant buildings (or land) until such time that they can be brought back into commercial use again. SQW consulting produced an informative report in May 2010 on the business case and learning points for Meanwhile Use. The report states that there are approximately 25,000 vacant shops closed due to the recession in the UK (13% of UK shops sitting empty), while over 250 meanwhile projects are underway. Nearly 75% of the projects are in vacant retail units, but other types of spaces are increasingly being used including offices, housing, pubs, places of worship, car showrooms and building sites. More than half the uses are arts/ culture related, but informal learning opportunities and cheap office space are a growing trend. As an attempt to get around some of the legal constraints (such as use classes) they have produced a standard ‘meanwhile use’ lease which can help interested parties. The idea of ‘meanwhile uses’ can also be extended to the use of public building outside their normal operating hours (‘moonlight’ meanwhile use) – this is a consistent idea with several of our case studies (e.g. Kentish Town Health Centre, PS340).
A current example (Jan 2012) of a ‘meanwhile use’ space in London is pictured above (both photos) on Finchley Street which has been redesigned by Meanwhile space to accommodate individuals or groups looking for temporary work space (can also host an event). The space was formerly a restaurant (in the O2 Centre) and can be rented for £10 per person per day or £250 per person per month. The space is quite versatile – open plan with a variety of working areas (or you can bring your own desk) and is ideal for start ups, creatives and community focused groups. For more information