The city of Newcastle, NSW is the largest coal port in the world. Yet as the harbour has essentially become a giant open mouth belching coal to China, and people and other business have drifted to the suburbs (an over-simplification, but …), the historic core of the city has hollowed out, leaving numerous vacant buildings. Heading into the heart of all this, the Renew Newcastle project enabled small businesses, artists, entrepreneurs and various creatives to find a temporary home in these largely unoccupied city centre spaces. By liaising with the building owners, the project found a way of offering super-short-term leases at peppercorn rents in all kinds of pretty vacant spaces. They overlaid a free wi-fi network, enabling basic connectivity, and offered a few other basic amenities. The smart trick of the rolling 30-day lease gave start-ups a contract they could afford to get into, and landlords a secure way of getting them out of it should a better offer arise. Simple.
The project has been achieved without any meaningful funding at all (though funding came later - see comment from Marcus below). As a result, the almost derelict city centre is being used again, and the spaces are rapidly being reconfigured, becoming increasingly active, safe, productive.
Bottom-up implies a more sophisticated engagement with citizens, and from citizens. Genuine engagement in urban development is beyond manipulating dynamic viewsheds, browsing local census data, and poring over a developer’s financial projections. It means opening up the question of what the city is for to its citizens. It means putting many of the tools for design into the hands of citizens, to construct their own everyday city.
cityofsound: Emergent Urbanism, or ‘bottom-up planning’