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UN-build--Turn unused buildings into venues for roving markets

The concept is to create a roving market for local businesses, food, art and products to be sold in unused building space around the city. Looking for the perfect holiday gift? It will be coming soon to a vacant venue near you!

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This concept was inspired by Artomatic, an annual Washington, DC collaborative event where over 1,000 artists come together for an unjuried collaborative show drawing in crowds of over 75,000 people over the 6 week installation. This cooperative effort takes place in a building that is currently unused, unfinished or abandoned and includes artists from all mediums: visual, performance, fashion, film, music, and more. The event also partners with local businesses for food, alcohol and product sales. The attention that Artomatic draws to certain economically depressed neighborhoods in the DC metro area improves the local economy, sheds a new light on the neighborhood and ultimately brings thousands of visitors into new areas--in a sense re-branding these areas as a vibrant meeting and event space connected to the community.

The UN-build concept could take Artomatic to the next level by identifying areas of the city in need of revitalization and spending 6 weeks in an unused building in each of these areas. While in residence, the roving market would draw new attention to the area, provided a needed economic boost, and engage local business. Artist or architects involved could assist in refurbishing the space hosting the event through an contest running the duration of the UN-build presence in that location and result in a rehabilitation commission. This would draw in even further resources and attention to economically depressed areas that would be long lasting after UN-build moved to the next area. Building owners also gain a fee for renting the space out that would otherwise be unused.

What resources (money, time, people, technology, etc) will your concept need to be successful?

Since UN-build generates revenue and an additional or the only store front for local businesses, it is in their best financial interest to participate and market the events. A representative from each participating organization should be appointed as the point person for organizing their presence at the UN-build. There will be one project manager at first to coordinate the event and all representatives until the effort and need grows to get more project managers on board. This project manager could be sourced through a CSR initiative of a local corporation looking to give back to economic development in the area by way of lending out human capital. Depending on the availability of space, zoning regulations and efficiency of local businesses, this effort could get off the ground fairly quickly.

UN-build could partner with local NGOs and big businesses to design fundraising events and parties to kick off and close each installation time and sell additional products.

Finally this could act as a place of action for online initiatives and platforms as the one suggested in the Vibrancy in a Box concept.

What steps could you take to implement this idea today?

In order to implement UN-build today, I could reach out to local NGOs and businesses that are concerned with economically depressed areas of their cities to understand where to begin in their city.

I could also connect with the Trust for Historic Preservation's Main Street campaign to collaborate with others who have similar concepts or initiatives in order to garner ideas and support.

How can your idea be scaled so that it's implemented in cities around the world?

Any group of businesses and artists could replicate this model around the world by tapping into a community of artists and a community of business people in the local area that likely are already connected and tasking them with event planning and business partnership development. Most cities have unused building space to host UN-build. All learnings and initiatives could be shared through an online sharing platform and mapping solution.


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You might look at the DeKalb Market in downtown Brooklyn. It has grown into a vibrant community.

It's a natural extension of ideas like urban farms and craft startups by creating a place where the food and products can be sold.

An article I read about it said that one source of locations for popup markets is stalled construction projects. Interesting to think about how the city could help introduce all the different groups needed to make an idea like this work.

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Whitney, Thanks for the helpful resource. I like how this market clearly states the criteria for participation and follows goals with action. I'd love to visit in person for more ideas!

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