Boasting projects like Imagination Station, Rekindle, Rollickin’ Gelato and FESTA, Life in Vacant Spaces is transforming Christchurch's bare land into pop up projects.
They’ve been bringing pops of excitement, colour and educational services to the city since 2012 and have asked for little in return - just that the Christchurch community enjoys them.
LiVS Chair Irene Boles became involved with the organisation in 2013 when she took on the role as chair.
She says LiVS is great for the Christchurch community.
“We have shown them that they can actively be involved in the space they are living.”
Dermot Martin is the Chief Executive of UniMed, which owns one of the buildings that LiVS uses.
Martin has been working with Life in Vacant Spaces for the past 5 years and has nothing but praise for the organisation.
“It’s a vehicle to provide opportunity for culture and arts and even start up small organisations that wouldn’t be able to have CBD modern building space without the help of LIVS.”
Martin says from a building owner perspective LIVS are great to work with.
“Part of the arrangement with LiVS is they leave it as they found it, which I’ve been really impressed with.”
LiVS provides lots of benefits for building owners like Dermot.
He says, “Our building is occupied, it’s busy, people are coming and going, the public are visiting, our building is getting known, just generally making it look and feel busy and vibrant.”
Success stories when working with LiVS are common - the organisation helped Jed Joyce, aged 15 to set up a gelato cart, which he used to fundraise for his school trip. Now it’s his fully fledged business - Rollickin’ Gelato - on New Regent Street, and LiVS helped him the whole way.
“For me, LiVS allowed me to get my foot in the door for my business and trial my concept.” Joyce says without them, he wouldn’t have been able to trial the concept, and four years later become a paying tenant in the city.
Just down the road from Joyce’s Rollickin Gelato in Cathedral Junction, Imagination Station was set up with the help of LiVS in 2015.
It’s New Zealand’s first LEGO play and learning centre, complete with as many lego pieces as a child could wish for. It’s also stocked full of computers for users to build virtual lego and create animation.
“In the post earthquake Christchurch we definitely needed a bit of life and colour back into the city, and LiVS has done that,” says Operations Manager Anna Ross.
Imagination Station was originally a six month project, but over two a half years later the success of the pop-up means they’re still there. Ross says they hope for at least another year of being around.
“For us, it’s really important to provide a safe and accessible space for families to play and learn together,” Ross says.
Life in Vacant Spaces is full of project ideas waiting to go that will liven up Christchurch’s empty land. Now, they’re after more landowners of vacant land that LiVS can use to start up new temporary projects.
Head to livs.org.nz to find out more, and the benefits landowners, project partners and the community can get by being involved with Life in Vacant Spaces.