Elected Officials

Activate Streetscapes through Temporary Uses of Vacant Buildings and Sites

Organizing temporary uses of vacant buildings or land for socially beneficial purposes, which helps create safe dynamic streetscapes and walking destinations.

Guidance
  • Collaborate with local organizations to determine the temporary use
  • The following elements are suggested for a community garden or urban farm:
    • Water source
    • Covered area
    • Seating
    • Bathroom
    • Compost or worm bins
    • Art installations
  • Organize regular and frequent programming at the space
  • Co-produce temporary programming with local groups to reflect the local context and widen community outreach
  • Require written proposals from programming partners articulating exactly when and what will be occurring at the space
  • Collaborate with local organizations and municipalities to procure general liability insurance for the temporary use
  • Approach potential property owners with a proposal of what would take place, general liability insurance, and a contract template
  • Build relationships with local businesses for mutual support strategies, such as distributing neighborhood maps with local discounts, and distributing materials about the temporary use in nearby stores
  • Reach out to neighborhood associations to inform them of the temporary programming and gain their approval
  • Create a multifaceted marketing strategy to let the public know where and when the temporary installation will be open. The strategy should reach out to local organizations and their memberships, as well as traditional and social media outlets, and include wayfinding signage
  • Track how many people visit the site during its temporary use for property owners and use in future proposals
Benefits
  • Creates a dynamic and safer street space for pedestrians
  • Maintains street activity, including the number of pedestrians, which benefits nearby shops and offices
  • Creates new economic development and cultural opportunities
  • Temporary installations can provide an opportunity to build communities and establish a community hub
  • Helps business owners try out retail concepts and transition to permanent spaces
  • Discourages vandalism and illegal occupation of a vacant space
  • Improves appearance of the formerly vacant space, improving the quality of life for local residents
  • Potentially attracts new visitors and investors to the site and general area
  • Creates a potential business incubator for start-up businesses or new community organizations and nonprofit groups
  • Potentially provides accessible community services to a neighborhood. Temporary tenants can be groups providing services such as business start-up support within the communities that need it most, allowing more residents to learn about and take advantage of the opportunity
Considerations
  • Allotting adequate time for the permitting process
  • May need exemptions from outdated building codes
  • May need to develop appropriate language in landlord-tenant leases for flexible circumstances
  • Renovation costs and potential safety concerns of the site
  • Funding insurance, possibly offset by groups’ existing umbrella coverage
  • Logistics and costs of utilities
Where to Use It
  • Vacant retail space
  • Empty lots
  • Unrented office space
  • Abandoned warehouses or factories
  • Sites with transit access
Professional Consensus
  • In the absence of endorsements from national associations or governmental departments, cities are turning to best practices employed by other municipalities
Examples

This material is the product of a partnership between America Walks and Sam Schwartz Engineering. Visit here for more information on the partnership.