Fill ’er up

• Spacemarket’s Reece Harley and Rob Fletcher. Below: Lord mayor Lisa Scaffidi

• Spacemarket’s Reece Harley and Rob Fletcher. 

[Spacemarket] estimates at least 40 buildings in Perth are dormant

PERTH lord mayor Lisa Scaffidi is concerned a smartphone app to marry up disused properties with clients could degenerate into a public “name and shame” exercise.

Spacemarket will launch its Why so empty? app today, Saturday April 13, enabling users to tag onto an interactive map disused buildings which they believe could be occupied.

Since 2011, Spacemarket has been pairing up disused buildings with artists and businesses in Perth.

Advisor Reece Harley says based on Perth city council’s Forgotten Spaces Report he estimates at least 40 buildings in Perth are dormant, including The Savoy Hotel, The McNess Memorial Arcade and the Hotel and Theatre Metropole.

He claims building code red tape is getting in the way of premises being utilised, including finicky regulations relating to the thickness of window panes, the height of balustrades and the pitch of staircases.

Ms Scaffidi says the council has to be very careful not to encourage unreal expectations from people who have literally no idea of planning laws and zones.

“We would be concerned that this app could be seen more of a “name & shame” sort of exercise,” she said.

“There are some very good and proactive owners out there and it is more often than not a case of market cycles and banking finance requirements that limits the development phases and or cycles and the possibilities rather than suggesting it be the owners themselves and their lack of imagination or realisation of potential.

“The ‘red-tape’ mentioned is sometimes necessary to ensure buildings provide a safe and easily accessible place for all people.”

Ms Scaffidi adds the PCC was instrumental in the development of Spacemarket and was keen to see the activation of upper floors which attract business, creative industries and residents.

“The city has developed a number of programs to incentivise (not to fully fund) the activation of empty spaces,” she says.

“It has its heritage program that provides cash incentives to owners of heritage properties.”

A matched funding grant has supplied $350,000 to date in “activation-like projects”.

App-mad Greens WA senator Scott Ludlam is backing Why so empty?, which is adapted from the Bike Blackspot app that he developed.

Mr Harley says user comments and photos can be added to an interactive map, viewed from April 13 at http://www.spacemarket.com.au/whysoempty.

by STEPHEN POLLOCK

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