It turns out that one of my coworkers, Emily Rice – a recent graduate from the Urban and Regional Planning Program at Portland State University – has also studied strategies to address vacant and abandoned spaces in cities. As part of the LocusLab, she and three classmates partnered with the Central Eastside Industrial Council in Portland on the project No Vacancy! Exploring Temporary Use of Empty Space in the Central Eastside Industrial District. The project looked at how to enliven vacant spaces in the district with temporary activities and developments.

Their scope of temporary use includes the usual urban gardens and public art, but also includes some creative and innovative uses, such as: live performances, food carts, mobile marketing, new technology demonstrations, and micro-enterprise developments. Also interesting is their broad definition of “temporary” – it’s not constrained to just a few years, but even as short as a month or a few hours.

Emily said that, “the experience proved to be extremely telling with respect to community dynamics, business motivations, and misinterpretations of intentions.”  And that she “realized early on that any temporary projects that could even remotely be linked to negative impacts on the District were not going to be easily accepted.”

So to help make the Central Eastside Industrial District (CEID) more open to unconventional temporary uses, the group produced two publications. One is a No Vacancy! Guide that serves as a how-to manual for planning temporary projects in the CEID, and includes step-by-step checklists for property owners and space users to ensure proper planning. The other is a Final Report that explores the temporary use of vacant spaces and the applicability to the Central Eastside Industrial District. The report examines the benefits of temporary use, identifies examples of other projects around the world, considers the opportunities and barriers present in the CEID, and makes recommendations to the Central Eastside Industrial Council for implementing a program that supports a variety of temporary uses.

When the group presented their work to the Portland community, they chose the most fitting location – a vacant space in the historic Ford Building.