Idea: Proactive marketing of vacant units
It is important to develop long-term strategies to reduce high street vacancies. One approach is to pro-actively promote and incentivise their reuse both in the long and short-term.
The community could be involved in promoting the reuse of specific empty units by physically highlighting the opportunity for new tenants and uses. For example, making the unit presentable as a ‘white box’, and easier for prospective tenants to imagine its reuse. Simple vinyl window graphics would illustrate potential uses, floor area, estate agent contact details and a link to the council website with local demographic and performance data. Where relevant, it could explain the apparent vacancy and what is coming/ planned instead.
Through the project, the Town Team and the council could start developing other tools. For example, developing a commercial vacancy and landlords database (including size, rents and rates), and pro-actively connecting with potential tenants, for example, local estate agents could follow up any previous enquires. For temporary uses, a ‘pop-up pack’ could be developed to make it easier for landlords to host meanwhile uses and projects, such as displaying local information, exhibitions and temporary reuse by the community and artists.
An ‘investment pack’ could be created to encourage potential investors including details on demographics and footfall, local offer and a commercial vacancy database. Currently, the promotion of the town centre’s investment opportunities is limited to The Spires on-line brochure.
Why it is useful:
- Reduce vacant unit levels
- Promote uses that are suitable for the local population
- Encourage engagement of landlords in the stewardship of the town centre
Who needs to be involved:
- Town Team: Co-lead / Champion
- Council: Co-lead e.g. lead on policy and aid engagement with landlords etc.
- Estate Agents and Landlords
How to get started:
- Council to support engagement with local estate agents and landlords, using local intelligence and land registry details. Invite to face-to-face meetings, or a forum, to discuss an activation strategy
- Identify first participants to test the idea, for example, the empty former Bentley showroom
- Funding opportunities: Landlords contribution to cover costs (website/materials)
- Site Ownership: Engage with landlords and estate agents
- Resource: Requires volunteer time and skills
Example: Great Portland Street
The Crown Estate take an active approach to encouraging new tenants to rent their empty properties, successfully curating the retail units they own. Whilst working in a very different context to Chipping Barnet, simple tactics can be borrowed. These include making vacant units presentable as a ‘white box’ with well-designed graphics suggesting future uses, to prompt potential tenants, alongside details of the agent.