Coming up with great gap fillers

ABBIE NAPIER
Last updated 08:34 20/05/2014
Brie Sherow
Stacy Squires/Fairfax NZ

BEHIND THE SCENES: Life in Vacant Spaces (LIVS) projects manager Brie Sherow makes things happen.

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Life in Vacant Spaces (LIVS) projects manager Brie Sherow makes things happen.

While the public sees the amazing transformations the trust facilitates, Sherow sees all the work that goes into making them happen.

Her job is not glamorous. It's a lot of paperwork, emails and phone calls, and only about a third of ideas make it into the real world.

She often cycles to work, lives close to the central city and shares office space with the Ministry of Awesome above CBD bar and restaurant.

Sherow, originally from the United States, is now a New Zealand resident. Her background is in urban planning and community development, and she was one of the first LIVS hires in 2012, with a passion for filling empty space with great ideas.

She was a Gap Filler volunteer when it set up LIVS and was quick to apply for the job.

"I think in any city there's always spaces to be filled," she says. "This was about creating an organisation from scratch."

LIVS was developed to complement Gap Filler - a team to organise space for all the ideas and ensure it was done legally and cheaply. Much of the expertise is donated (lawyers, accountants etc), with Sherow helping walk applicants through the logistical process of making their idea a reality.

"A big part of our job is knowing where we can outsource things," Sherow says. "When it works out, it's amazing, and when it doesn't, it's frustrating - like anything."

Sherow accepts all ideas and tells the applicant what they need to get to the next step, and the next step and so on. Many do not make it past the ideas stage.

"We never say no, but it depends on what spaces we have available and the motivation of the person. It's often a lot more work than people think to make it happen."

At the moment, LIVS is getting more calls for covered spaces and empty buildings to help kick off mini-businesses and start-ups. There are fewer calls for sculpture locations and more calls for helping entrepreneurs and community initiatives.

Sherow has been filling spaces for 18 months and while the concept remains the same, the process has become more streamlined and efficient.

"We know where we fit in now," Sherow says. "It's gone from fulltime hours, part-time pay, to fulltime fulltime."

This Sunday, Sherow will speak at ideas gathering PechaKucha Night on behalf of LIVS. She is talking about one of the first sites LIVS handled and what can be achieved in six months.

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- The Press

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