Temporary tenants inspire new use

One key benefit that can be promoted to landlords is that temporary projects open the units to visitors, maintain them and introduce the space to visitors who may become long-term tenants.

One regular visitor to The UpMarket, a mixed-use community project in Worthing, was Adam Stafford. The UpMarket brought together around 50 mainly small, local charities, and gave them space to both sell second-hand and vintage goods and showcase the services they provide. Artists were also given space to exhibit at regular markets, and students from the local college created site-specific work in the shop's store rooms and warehouse. The UpMarket was open for six weeks before Christmas and welcomed 12,000 visitors.

Stafford, who visited a number of times, is the managing director of a web design and search engine optimisation company called Fresh Egg. Struggling to find office space, he was inspired by the space he saw and negotiated a lease before spending £500,000 refurbishing the space. As well as offices, it includes a boardroom with Damien Hirst artwork, a canteen, a games area and a gym.

Without the temporary use, he would never have considered the building, which now houses 80+ staff who work with clients in Europe, America and Australia. As well as bringing this one building back into use, the staff are regulars at nearby cafes, coffee shops and bakers, so the project has increased trade for these small businesses too.

So while there is a clear benefit to the reuse of empty shops, the current wave of Empty Shops 2.0 projects has a further benefit as a trailblazer for new ways of using town centres.

Empty Shops 2.0 projects are defined by three things: they are interactive and engage with the community, they use technology to mix online and offline experience, and they involve reinvention of the physical space.