Temporary uses can enliven city neighborhoods

Posted by    |    November 24th, 2011 at 5:15 am

Imagine you have a long-vacant storefront or empty lot in your neighborhood. What if, just for a few months, it could become a plant nursery, a food garden, a beer garden, a sculpture garden, a playground, a clothing boutique or a tiny movie theater?

These small, temporary projects have the ability to revitalize vacant spaces, enliven neighborhoods, and provide small entrepreneurs a way test out their ideas with relatively small capital investments. This is what’s called “temporary urbanism” and shows how we can put vacant space back into productive use, even if only temporarily.

Last weekend the National Building Museum held a panel discussion on temporary urbanism around the world. Office of Planning Director Harriet Tregoning and DC Councilmember Tommy Wells discussed what DC can do.

One theme became clear: our regulatory structure and business practices are very good at accommodating permanent enterprises, but when it comes to temporary uses, we apply the same licensing burdens, lease agreements, and review processes that are unsuitable for projects that may only last 4 weeks.

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