Micro-village sprouts in city

SPIRITUAL SPACE:  A pedestrian walks through one the arches forming The Arcades Project at the Pallet Pavilion site on the corner of Durham and Kilmore streets
SPIRITUAL SPACE: A pedestrian walks through one the arches forming The Arcades Project at the Pallet Pavilion site on the corner of Durham and Kilmore streets

A central-city street corner has become a landing zone for like-minded people and organisations. Anna Pearson paid a visit.

At first glance you see walls of blue pallets, shacks made from recycled materials, a raised mini-golf course, a white shipping container, wooden arches, a double-decker bus, and a retro caravan.

But spend more time crunching around the gravel on the corner of Durham and Kilmore streets and you will discover what is becoming a little community.

The micro-village growing up around the Pallet Pavilion consists of Gap Filler's headquarters, Life in Vacant Spaces' headquarters, 3D printing outfit Makercrate, and food vendors.

Life in Vacant Spaces, which brokers vacant spaces in the city with people carrying out creative projects, holds the licence to occupy the former Crowne Plaza site.

Its headquarters is a solar-powered relocatable hut made from materials reclaimed from earthquake-damaged buildings.

Life in Vacant Spaces first set up in Tuam St, but director Jane Gregg said it made sense to contribute to the critical mass at the corner of Durham and Kilmore streets.

It would be a "thriving hub" in summer, with various food vendors such as the She Chocolat bus, Osaka-Ya's caravan, and a Mediterranean food cart operating amid a busy schedule of Pallet Pavilion events.

A white shipping container houses Makercrate, a mini fabrication lab with access to tools such as 3D printers and laser cutters.

The container, which will host classes from next month, was shipped to Christchurch after being kitted out by a collective makers' workshop in Wellington.

Operations manager Bridget McKendry said the shared site was ideal because it was accessible, was visited by a lot of children and families and allowed the organisations to pool resources.

The Volunteer Army Foundation, a charitable trust established by the founders of the Student Volunteer Army, is also in the process of joining the neighbourhood.

Co-founder and general manager Jason Pemberton said it made sense for organisations with similar visions to cluster together.

Cafe WooHoo owner Megan Aikenparked her retro caravan in the Pallet Pavilion in May, and has watched the village grow up around her.

Aiken works in with Gap Filler, the organisation behind the Pallet Pavilion, by overseeing its information stall, providing security during the day, and handing out golf clubs.

Gap Filler co-founder and creative director Coralie Winn said those involved in the village were in the process of deciding on a name.

About 10 names were short-listed, including Transitional Village, The Royal Plaza, and The Commons, and the public was invited to vote for their favourite one online.

"I think we are one of many hubs now. We see a lot of people through here - tourists, and locals exploring the city. It [the micro-village] is contributing to the city coming back to life.

"Why waste [vacant] land? This site represents a sort of alternate recovery - a participatory, grassroots recovery."

Life in Vacant Spaces' licence to occupy runs until mid-2015, but a termination clause means everyone has 60 days to ship out if the council needs the land.

Winn said the Pallet Pavilion would be taken down in April. 

The Press