Meanwhile Space, making retail space affordable to start-ups

Pic: Sam Hooper: Meantime brings dying an ddead retail spaces back to life.

Pic: Sam Hooper: Meantime brings dead and dying retail spaces back to life.

By Yousif Farah

Meanwhile Space is an award winning social enterprise which is concerned with tackling the empty commercial spaces problem across the capital.

Meanwhile aims to help create and improve the business opportunities of aspiring entrepreneurs by using empty commercial property. The Social Enterprise, which came second in the RBS top 100 social enterprises in London list, provides entrepreneurs with business ideas the space they need at a low cost.

The program is funded by the Outer London Fund, a funding program provided by the mayor of London and designated to improve high streets within the capital.

Meanwhile Space is endeavouring to reduce the number of empty shops and consequently reduce the risk of the buildings being squatted and any anti-social behaviour that may lead to.

It also aims to bring diversity within the high street by providing empty spaces at a reduced price and on flexible terms. You are able to rent a space for a month, week or even a day, and unlike mainstream commercial property agents Meanwhile Space charge no deposit.

However, like any other emerging Business. Meanwhile Space are faced with many obstacles. The main one is establishing who owns what. Another problem is the lack of interest from profit driven commercial property agents who view mean while space as a rival rather than a partner.

Despite its success in such a short space of time, Meanwhile’s director, Eddie Bridgeman, maintains a modest approach. “I’m not sure if we’re successful yet. But there are some good things we’ve achieved. Success for us will be when it becomes mainstream for people to access empty commercial property on a short term basis.”

His advice to a business start up or social enterprise that wants to make use of vacant commercial property in the short term is to be credible, confident and true.

Queens Parade, in Brent, NW London, is one of many projects supported by Mean While Space and was done in partnership with Brent Council, the Architecture Foundation and Blue Consulting. The project is comprised of eight retail units. Within two months of opening in 2012 Queens Parade was voted in Time Out as one of the nine best shopping locations in London.

Stuart Gould, who runs Stables in Exile, a shop in Queens Parade, said: “It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement we have with Meanwhile Space. We know the local councillors, community groups, libraries, housing associations and other organisations which helped to get things done.”

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