New initiative to fill city's gaps

Initiative matches activities with empty land

LIZ MCDONALD
Last updated 05:00 17/11/2012
Susan O’Meagher
DON SCOTT

SPACE TO FILL: Susan O’Meagher from Life in Vacant Spaces wants to know what’s going in this space.

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First there was Greening the Rubble, then there was Gap Filler and now comes Life in Vacant Spaces (Livs).

Just launched as a charitable trust with a $160,000 leg-up from the Christchurch City Council, Livs is the latest concept for bringing life and energy to earthquake-torn Christchurch.

The initiative will match arts, cultural or community activities with empty land and buildings in the central city.

"The main criteria for projects is that they are fun and ready to go," Livs general manager Susan O'Meagher said.

She suggested galleries, pop-up tearooms, art installations, peace gardens, sculpture displays and workshops.

The trust had more ideas than sites to put them in, so it was on the hunt for usable spaces - anything from a building to a shopfront to bare land.

"Our job is to make it simple for landowners to lend us their land. We take all the risk and do all the organising," she said.

The trust would work as a go-between and sub-lease vacant sites rent-free for whatever transitional projects people came up with.

It would sort "the tricky bits", such as liability insurance, health and safety requirements, security and legal agreements, she said.

Landlords taking part would benefit because rather than attracting trouble and graffiti, their bare sites or empty buildings would be used and cared for, and foot traffic would increase.

Properties were guaranteed to be handed back clean and tidy, within 30 days if needed, O'Meagher said.

Livs is the brainchild of Ryan Reynolds and Coralie Winn, who co-founded Gap Filler to brighten the central city with ideas such as the book fridge, a cycle-powered cinema and Dance-O-Mat.

The trust is using volunteer labour to build itself an eco-friendly office in Tuam St opposite the former city council headquarters.

The Livs concept is based on projects such as Renew Newcastle, set up after the New South Wales earthquake.

O'Meagher hoped bringing the initiative to Christchurch would boost business and tourism, and help the city feel vibrant again.

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- The Press

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