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Local success for pop up initiatives


Darebin Council’s Active Spaces project has achieved some impressive pop up results !

We’ve discussed Active Spaces in Darebin several times here at popUPshops… as the leading example of a suburban council pro-actively addressing their issues of long-term retail vacancies – using pop up as a vehicle to “breathe new life”* into their declining shopping strips ! The Active Spaces project was developed by Darebin Council to revitalise retail precincts and encourage local enterprise… offering a service to match worthy small businesses with empty (needy) properties.

There aren’t many prerequisites to feature as an “Active Space” within Darebin – but the pop up enterprises (preferably creative and/or social) do need to be based within the municipality, as a resident or local business. The spaces they’ll inhabit usually benefit from a lick of paint and the removal of graffiti, whilst attracting customers back to quieter stretches of shops… which is usually also good for the other traders (and benefits the community as a whole). The program also seeks to encourage relationships between landlords and businesses – one of the main objectives is to see those small enterprises flourish in their temporary homes… and sign up to stay longer !

Coming into a fourth year of activity, the Active Spaces project has put some substantial ticks on the board…

  • it has facilitated 24 short-term tenants in vacant properties – and 12 long-term leases
  • generated more than $300,000 in rent
  • employed around 90 people, as they’ve trialled their business models out in the “real world”
  • represented 55+ artists, in 40+ art installations
  • responded to over 700 enquiries about the program
  • and encouraged partnerships (and initiatives) between landlords, real estate agents and council departments – all focused on supporting Darebin’s local business and retail opportunities.

The project has achieved some impressive acknowledgement, as 2015 winner of the LGPro Awards – Excellence for the Service Delivery, 2014 Winner of the Mainstreet Australia Award – “Mainstreet Activation” and 2013 / 2014 finalists at the EDA National Awards for “Economic Development Excellence”.

Much of the program’s work has previously been apparent along the busy High Street of Westgarth, Northcote and Thornbury – but more recently their attention has shifted to other “priority areas” around Preston and Reservoir… which shows some sound strategic thinking behind the project. They’ve also just achieved another significant “first” – enrolling a developer in the program who will offer their property as an Active Space whilst undertaking permit approvals (the project sees this as a significant next phase in “strengthening our connections across both the property owners and creative businesses”*)

So why is this great for the “pop up movement” ? It answers some of the criticisms of pop up retail… that short-term solutions do more harm than good (by encouraging a lack of commitment from new businesses, and putting long-term traders at a disadvantage by supporting “here today / gone tomorrow” retailers…) Strategic initiatives such as the Active Spaces project are often devised only as a “meanwhile” intervention – whilst councils, landlords and businesses develop new and more permanent solutions. In the interim, these programs help to activate and maintain the quieter precincts – and demonstrate how there can be healthy results for businesses and landlords when working together toward solutions (short-term and longer-term !)


*source : Active Spaces in Darebin

Active Spaces in Darebin

all images : Actives Spaces in  Darebin


High Street Preston before

High Street Preston after

High Street Preston interior

High Street Preston – before, after and interior


Station Street Fairfield before

Station Street Fairfield after

Station Street Fairfield – before and after


High Street Thornbury before

High Street Thornbury after

High Street Thornbury – before and after



One comment to "Local success for pop up initiatives"

  1. Sarah 18/03/2016

    Excellent statistics Active Spaces!! Keep up the good work!! Thanx for the article Scott!!!


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