U+I believe that Meanwhile Use is an integral part of the development process.In a world where there is an unavoidable delay between acquiring a site and beginning construction, meanwhile-use is instrumental in understanding the fine grain of a place, which would be completely missed by simply erecting hoardings until planning is secured.
It’s a developer’s responsibility to have a meaningful interaction with the local community in order to become educated on the history of the site and how it’s viewed by local residents. Unfortunately, many developers aren’t willing to invest the time and effort it takes to develop a rapport with residents and deliver something they truly need. Not only is this wasteful, but often damaging to the local community. It’s no surprise that boarded up sites incite resentment and the fear of change.
However, there are some developers that do try their hand at meanwhile-use but as Deputy CEO of U+I, Richard Upton, commented last year, ‘somehow serving coffee at a fiver a cup does not feel right in the middle of a community where unemployment may be well above average. It is not connected with the community, has no understanding of the people around it which means it is of limited value in the short term and delivers nothing for the long term.’
We believe that meanwhile-use can be truly worthwhile when it has been conceived from an understanding of the community and a commitment to deliver social and economic value that is authentic to the area.
In 2015 we began our worthwhile-use initiative at Preston Barracks when we transformed a derelict building in Brighton into a co-working space for a bespoke community of innovative, local enterprises which we called FIELD. We carefully curated these businesses to ensure that they were each offering something distinctive to the community.