Christchurch gap filler sees scope for Hamilton empty spaces

RACHAEL CLARKE
Last updated 05:00 25/08/2014
Coralie Winn
Fairfax NZ

SPACE HAS POTENTIAL: Coralie Winn believes temporary building projects constructed in Christchurch could also be a good fit for empty spaces in Hamilton.

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A co-founder and director of Christchurch regeneration initiative Gap Filler was shocked to see the amount of vacant spaces within Hamilton city.

Coralie Winn, the mastermind behind temporary projects built on sites cleared after the quakes, wants to bring her ideas to Hamilton's CBD.

Her Christchurch installations include a cycle-powered cinema and a venue made out of 3000 wooden pallets.

Visiting Hamilton last week she noticed a large number of "For lease" signs on stores, particularly on Victoria St.

She said the problem would only get worse as "vacant spaces breed more vacant spaces".

"Cities are not what they used to be."

The Hamilton City Council's general manager of events and economic development, Sean Murray, says the mayor has plans in place to revive the city centre.

"A lot of it is about the basics - safety, clean environment - but also more challenging issues like parking, use of lanes, and how to encourage property owners to update their buildings."

Murray said the council would support the use of Winn's ideas, but point her in the direction of landlords and the Hamilton Central Business Association.

"We love the idea, and people with these sorts of exciting initiatives need to be working with building owners directly."

However, Winn is working directly with other city councils.

"Things are going on in Auckland. Auckland Council is working with Gap Filler," she said.

Her ideas are also taking off in Wellington, where they created a similar initiative called Letting Space.

A gardener at Wintec has adopted a similar concept, creating a Koru design in an unused area at the city campus.

Wintec director of communication Erin Andersen said it was an innovative way of using an empty space without spending a lot of money.

"It's a space where we have had some buildings demolished. In the meantime our gardener wanted to do a land-space project so that it wasn't just an empty space of dirt," Andersen said.

But Winn said the first question was whether there was a problem and whether the community saw it as a problem.

"There needs to be a problem and there needs to be a need. Are there people that would want to use them [temporary projects]?"

She said local emerging artists, creative students and entrepreneurs may see it as a need.

"What you get is people caring about the city as they have a stake in it. You get a livelier city because there are more people in it and more local businesses."

■ Rachael Clarke is a Wintec journalism student.

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