Temporary Use for maintenance and co-development of private property

Property owners can also reap the benefits of Temporary Uses initiatives. In contrast to municipalities, property owners are often more interested in the direct economical returns that Temporary Use brings about.

Providing physical maintenance services

Without some kind of maintenance and security, vacant buildings crumble and loose their value due to looting, vandalism and influence of weather conditions, especially in countries with considerable seasonal climate differences. As vacant buildings are not generating income, owners often face hardship in affording to maintain them, thus degradation sets in. This is especially true in times of crisis and property market uncertainty when large stocks of property can be waiting for the next growth period, risking to irreversibly loose their value. In this situation, Temporary Use can serve as a maintenance service where users take up the role of house guardians preserving or even improving the condition of property in exchange for using it for low rent or even without rent.

Kaņepes Cultural centre
Kaņepes Cultural centre – Riga

Such was the case of an abandoned musical school building in Riga, which in early 2010s was facing bleak future. Its owner, a student fraternity didn’t have resources to invest into reconstruction of the house and the condition of the building meant that it couldn’t be used and therefore would not be heated too. For a wooden building in the climat of Baltics it means fast deterioration due to dampness, mold and decay.e iyness,ltics ateinvest into reconstruction of the house and therom the fact t owners leave lare amounts of property in waitin The initiators of Kaņepes Cultural centre negotiated 10 years use contract of this around 600 m² building in exchange for pledging to invest €140.000 in its renovation. Eventually owners not only got preservation of the building that they were initially looking for, but also increase in its value as the cultural centre has become one of the most popular creative hotspots in Riga.

Similarly a Romanian arts based NGO was performing the initial maintenance and renovation service of Fabrica de Pensule factory area in Cluj, which was getting in a bad condition and having no prospective development options. Here, the Temporary Use with the owner was set up more as a traditional rent agreement, with no guaranteed lenght of the contract to recognize the NGO’s investments in the building.

After the first successful 2 years of activities, the initiators got funding for the renovation of the interior of the building from the Norwegian-Romanian grant, further increasing the value, usability and attractiveness of the building. Afterwards, the owner was open to continue cooperation as he saw the obvious increase in the attractiveness and value of his property. However, regardless of these benefits brought to the owner, NGO is still facing Temporary Use contract with short eviction notice time and no compensation in case of eviction. This demonstrates the necessity to recognize the value of Temporary Use already in contract negotiation in order to develop more fair and sustainable relationship between the parties.

End of summer @ Fabrica de Pensule, Cluj - photo by Roland Váczi
End of summer @ Fabrica de Pensule, Cluj – photo by Roland Váczi

The lessons on Temporary Use as a maintenance service can be drawn also from the fact that in countries like Great Britain and the Netherlands, Temporary Use is often oganized as a commercial house guardian service. Agencies like Camelot Europe and Ad-Hoc Property Management are offering owners squatting and vandalism prevention, as well as maintenance costs reduction, while opening the vacant properties for live-in house guardians. House guardians benefit from low cost accomodation, while facing agreement without the usual  renter’s protection, for example, short, two weeks to one month eviction notice time and additional house guardian tasks and limitations.

Co-developing private property with Temporary Use

Bringing new life to and increasing the attractiveness of planned residential development area was the owner’s motivation to seek Temporary Use in Zunda area, an abandoned tractor factory hangar and surrounding territory planned to be raised and replaced with new residential developments in Riga. A neighboring factory area had been demolished already some years ago, still standing empty and unattractive, waiting for the right development idea.

The owner of Zunda decided to leave the factory hangar in place and open it to temporary culture and outdoor activities that are bringing young people into the area and making it well known. Additionally, the owner receives reduction in the property tax from Riga City Council worth a few thousand euros a year, as the poperty is used by public benefit status NGO, and gains reduction in physical maintenance costs of the territory, as temporary users have obligation to perform a row of maintenance tasks.

Temporary Use can also serve the owner with brokering and real estate services in cases of large abandoned buildings that no one company or initiative can rent and revive. In such situations, initial temporary user can act as a broker in exchange for preferential or no-rent agreement, attracting and curating more users to the building. Such brokering saves the owner the effort of acquiring and dealing with large numbers of renters, which is especially attractive when the traditional commercial renting promises low financial return. Such role was performed by Totaldobže Arts Centre in organizing creative and artistic events as well as artists residency and studios in up to 3000 m2 of abandoned VEF factory buildings in Riga.

Totaldobže Art Centre Riga - Photo Didzis Grodzs
Totaldobže Art Centre Riga – Photo Didzis Grodzs

Another way Temporary Use can increase attractiveness and value of place is through story telling. Temporary Use often produces exciting and successful initiatives, like Pop Up Pallets in Amersfoort that are becoming showcase story not only for their product and mission, but also for the place. Another example of vivid story-telling is Stadtteil Oper, concerts by Bremen Philharmonic orchestra organized in a most unusual location – in place of two demolished skyscraper buildings in Bremen. In this way Temporary Use is performing service of place making and communication.

As demonstrated by the case of “Provoz Hlubina” in Ostrava through Temporary Use owners can gain a co-developer for abandoned areas that are hard to develop, like large industrial sites. It enables owners to find the most appropriate functions for the space even before it is being developed and invested into, reducing the risk of making wrong choices. This has been a benefit of Temporary Use that also Bremen city has highlighted in finding the best uses for municipal property.

An additional benefit for owners engaging with Temporary Use is knowledge exchange on property development. Temporary Use, especially when organized by an agency, is a platform pooling together various practices and ideas for unconventional property development. From the experience of “Free Riga”, NGO based Temporary Use agency in Riga, owners are interested in learning about such opportunities.

The value of Temporary Use for corporate social responsibility

An interesting perspective on Temporary Use is its value for PR and corporate social responsibility purposes. These pathways that could address large international corporations and banks, the types of owners that are the hardest to reach and convince to engage in Temporary Use with other aforementioned arguments. For example, networking initiative Matchpoint in Amersfoort is organizing breakfast meetings for business people and Temporary Use initiatives. It facilitates the matching of corporations and grass-roots initiatives which can result in sponsorship and support through opening up vacant spaces for Temporary Use.

Business Breakfast at Matchpoint REFILL Amersfoort
Business Breakfast at Matchpoint REFILL Amersfoort

Identifying and acknowledging benefits to private owners can lead to more fair and sustainable Temporary Use agreements. Temporary Use provides maintenance, cost reduction and increasing the attractiveness and value of the property. From the municipality’s perspective, understanding these benefits can inform city on ways how to stimulate Temporary Use in private property and preserve its benefits for longer time.


This article is part of the series “Providing Temporary Use services” in which Mārcis Rubenis from Free Riga and Irīna Miķelsone from the City of Riga (Latvia) are describing some examples of how Temporary Use initiatives can see and market themselves as a form of service.


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