Image of How to reclaim empty spaces | The Big Issue
How to reclaim empty spaces | The Big Issue
An empty building is a waste of space. The Big Issue’s Fill ‘Em Up campaign has encouraged the refurbishment of unused or derelict buildings: a great way to boost housing supply and re-energise neighbourhoods in decline.

We’ve highlighted a lot of the good work going on to breathe new life into old buildings, and have urged government to do more to help groups willing to bring light to some of the nation’s dark corners.

One London-based social enterprise is showing just how much can be achieved with a bit of imagination and persistence.

Meanwhile Space has forged a series of ground breaking partnerships with local authorities, public bodies and companies to create a series of pop-up arrangements for young entrepreneurs.

At Loughborough Junction, for example, the organisation devised a deal with Network Rail to rent out the string of empty arches under the railway as workshops and event spaces (pictured above).

In total, the organisation’s projects have brought a staggering 130,000 square feet of empty space into use. It has also created 230 jobs in the process, giving many people their very first opportunity to grow their own business.

Emily Berwyn, director of Meanwhile Space, says many property and landowners are keen to allow others temporary use of vacant sites.

“When we started there were so many empty sites sitting there, doing nothing, waiting to be opened up and given amazing opportunities,” Berwyn explains.

“Owners get to make use of their building, and local authorities are interested in the economic impact of having more active places in their area,” she adds.

Thanks to a fair rent policy set by the social enterprise, the tenants who open up pop-up stores benefit from rents between 50% to 80% of market value.

“From the tenants point of view, it gives them a chance to get started, take risks and grow, whether it’s in that space or somewhere else.”

Big Issue Invest, the social investment arm of The Big Issue Group, has helped finance the work of Meanwhile Space, impressed by the ability of the social enterprise to get things done.

Here are just a handful of Meanwhile Space’s current projects.....