The meanwhile space concept not only revives communities, but also benefits landlords and developers, giving a second life to their empty spaces. But like any new venture, advanced research, clear objectives, and concise communication are crucial for success.
Mahmud Shahnawaz, founder of the social enterprise, The Utilize Project, shares his expertise on how to create a successful and impactful meanwhile space.
Have a clear vision in mind
Initially, it’s important to ask yourself why you want to set up a meanwhile space. Do you want to bring the community together, create a safe space for locals, or showcase local talent?
Shahnawaz explains: “Setting objectives is crucial when starting up a meanwhile space. These shouldn’t be purely financial or growth objectives, though. Meanwhile spaces are for improving an area, and so goals should align with this ethos."
Examples of successful yet impactful meanwhile spaces include surplus food shops, technology hubs, or cafés that sell local produce.
Have a fresh idea
The high street is seeing a surge in independent and local businesses as larger retailers move online, and so experts say a meanwhile space should add something different.
Shahnawaz adds: "There’s no point filling an empty space for the sake of it. Having a fresh idea that will add something new to the area and to the community will result in a much better reception. As meanwhile spaces are a fairly new concept, and many landlords and developers are hesitant to implement them. Having a unique idea will help to revive the community and high street.”
Know the area and its community
In order to have an impact, you must do your research on what the community likes what it is missing, and what could potentially benefit them.
Shahnawaz says: "Having a positive impact on the area should be top of your priority list, and so “research is crucial before you sign a meanwhile space contract, otherwise no good will come from the project.”
For example, is there a lack of community spaces, or do the young tech talent need an innovative office space to work in?
Ensure clear communication with landlords and developers
Temporary contracts can sometimes lead to confusion from either party and so ensuring the occupation duration, objectives and purpose are clearly outlined from the get-go is imperative.
Shahnawaz says: “This is vital for a happy relationship between the occupier and the landlord or developer. It’s also important so that the temporary occupier is aware of any additional charges which may cause setbacks in budget.”
Using a third party can also help if meanwhile spaces are completely new to you, as they can negotiate terms.
Whilst meanwhile spaces are temporary and flexible contracts, many occupiers are start-ups and are within their incubator period. Finances are tighter and there is more risk should the meanwhile space not be as successful as anticipated.
Shahnawaz concludes: “This is also a high risk as should finance run out before the end of the short-term contract, it could severely damage the relationship with the landlord and developer.”