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It's easier than you think to turn an empty building into a creative space

That’s according to the creators of a new ‘one-stop-shop’ DIY guide to creating live/work units in empty spaces.

Image: D.ploy Dublin via Vimeo

POST-BOOM IRELAND is home to many empty and unused buildings – spaces that could most certainly be put to a better use.

So if you wanted to turn a space into a live/work unit, where you could not only be creative but also set up home, how would you go about it?

Free toolkit

Emmanuelle Marion is the woman behind d.ploy Dublin, a creative group that has created an ‘urban toolkit’, which aims to give everyone the knowledge and tools to transform used and unused spaces into creative spaces.

Why does this toolkit (which would be free to access) focus on live/work units?

“Because, they lower costs, offer flexibility, lower rates and promote sustainable urban living. We believe this toolkit can get people back living and working long-term into the city centres, the vacant spaces, the ghost estates,” said d.ploy Dublin.

Marion decided to set up d.ploy “because we thought there was a bit of a gap between policy and practice,” she told TheJournal.ie. Very early on, the issue of space came up.

A lot of self employed people and small organisations as well were kind of complaining that they didn’t have the adequate space and premises. They were needing more space and spaces that were more flexible.

After research and testing, d.ploy decided the toolkit approach was best. “I guess now as well in the light of a housing crisis it’s also very much teaching people how to negotiate contracts, how to do things a little bit more on their own terms,” said Marion.

“The tenant is back in control a bit more. It’s very flexible. It’s going to be catering to a lot of different needs – people who want to buy, people who want to rent, people who just want to know about getting a fixed-term lease, or people who want to know about changing the use of a space.”

She said that the process benefits the person at the other end of the transaction, as they could get a long-term tenant out of it.

How easy is it?

Is turning an empty space into a creative space easier than people think? “Absolutely – I think people really don’t know how to go about it,” said Marion.

They think it’s much more difficult than it is but also because a lot of the time there’s a lot of advance planning. And that’s what we’ve been observing from people who just jumped into things like that and forgot about regulations and got closed down. It perpetrates an image of something that’s unattainable.

The guide is “demystifying the whole thing a bit”.

Raising funds

D.ploy Dublin has set up a Fund:it account to raise €1900 to help fund their guide. “We hope it is going to be inspirational for people,” said Marion.

In the meantime, what would make things easier for people who want to set up their own live/work spaces?

“I think that in terms of regulation, [councils] could involve people from the onset of the process,” she said. “If you are developing something, talk to your audience. Listen to them in the first place so that you don’t have to go over the same things to change things. So far it’s a good model because it is a flexible model even within the regulation.”

Read: Here’s how you turn vacant buildings into creative spaces>

Read: Communities can take back their town with pop-up museums in vacant spaces>

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