What is REFILL? About the URBACT project

About the URBACT project

REFILL: reuse of vacant spaces as driving force for innovation on local level

As a result of the global financial and economic crisis it is important that new forms of solidarity and commitment can grow in the laboratory a city is. Trendsetters, pioneers, and bottom-up civic initiatives nourish the transitions in our society and co-create the solutions. In that respect temporary use is a powerful tool to make our cities future fit.

The last years many cities experimented with the concept of ‘temporary use’ of abandoned and derelict spaces. It has been an important and inspiring source of innovation and change in cities, being a motor and incubator for new forms of urbanity. Initiatives – often from a bottom-up perspective – vary in themes and in target groups: SME’s artists, craftsmen, organizations seeking meeting space, cultural initiatives, residents who maintain a piece of green, initiatives for urban agriculture, managing a community center, experimenting with new forms of mobility,…

A temporary no-man’s-land offers the opportunity to create something new, experiment, discover but also experience the city differently. The element of temporality offers the advantage to be exempt to the mainstream rules that apply for managing and exploiting ‘regular’ spaces. And this is how innovation is triggered. In some cities it just occurred and cities let it happen, in others local authorities actively looked for ways to facilitate this.

This project wants to unite cities who have experimented for some years with temporary use and developed an instrument (legislation, a fund, financial instruments, an agency, a network, a (digital) platform,….) to address the topic. Both public and private space and buildings are in scope. These experiences raise new questions to cities that we would like to address in our network:

On the level of the concept of temporary use:

  • How to deal with the ‘temporary’ aspect of temporary use?
  • Temporary use creates expectations towards permanent use or keeping projects alive after the temporarity?
  • How can we make the successes sustainable?
  • How do we avoid that initiatives rise as mushrooms and then just as quickly fall from the radar because of lack of experience, guidance, expertise,…?
  • How can we make sure that temporary interventions on sites of urban renewal live through in the new development?

On the level of governance:

  • How to make better use of temporary use as a way of engaging as city administration with the forerunners in your society?
  • How can we let our city policy and city planning get influenced by these projects and the concept of temporary use?
  • How to adapt our city administration/organization in a way that we can better respond to the integrated way temporary use works (integral, intersectoral, less administrative/bureaucratic burdens,….)? No smart cities/citizens without smart civil servants.
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