Town centre regeneration or town centre reinvention? For any enterprising person or community the answer has to be town centre reinvention. It’s a phrase filled with opportunity and also love which is perhaps why the Can Do Spaces “Vacant To Vibrant” project has captured the imagination of so many people across Scotland’s towns.
Can Do Places came out of two strategies from the Scottish Government. The first being the Can Do Enterprise and Innovation Framework and the second the Town Centre Action Plan. The thinking was simple – enterprising people built our towns and only enterprising people can save them.
In the rush to regenerate our town centres, the aspect of local enterprise is all too often forgotten about. But we need to nurture entrepreneurship to help bring about the regeneration that some of our high streets so desperately need.
Can Do Places is a programme that seeks to address exactly that challenge by helping people who are passionate about their communities to bring currently unloved and disused spaces back to life, and in the process encourage greater vibrancy in their town centres.
In May 2015 we asked Development Trusts, Business Improvement Districts and community groups if they wanted to test their enterprise potential. Our aim was simple: to find a redundant building and breathe new life into it without any funding. The plan was also to create a ‘messy space’- a place where people could share, collaborate and work together. This was not to be an Innovation Hub or a Creative Hub, but a mash up of all kinds of enterprise ideas and enterprising people in a ‘Can Do’ space. I wanted this Can Do Hub to tap into latent skills and potential in order to produce a new breed of grassroots entrepreneur, intent on re-inventing their town.
For too long, we have been looking to the past to solve current day problems and revitalise our town centres. We now live and work and shop in completely different ways. What has been missing is the realisation that Scotland’s town centres and empty buildings are amazing places and that we need to combine these resources with the amazing people living nearby.
On 27th August, Margaret Burgess the Housing Minister will open our very first Can Do Messy Space and turn the project from virtual to actual. Falkirk is to be a pilot scheme to show other towns how this hub concept can be successful. The former Walmsley’s Store on Falkirk’s Callendar Riggs is being turned into the first Can Do Places Hub where local people will work together, test out enterprising ideas, and sell and make wares. The key factor here is that the project aims to keep as much of the money generated within the Falkirk economy. Another difference from other regeneration projects is that this one will bring together not-for-profit, public, voluntary and private sector organisations all under one roof in a unique collaboration.
If our assumptions are right, then the building could host businesses with a collective turnover of £3 million. If we then use the local economy multiplier, we can predict it will help retain £9 million in the Falkirk area.
Now that’s what I call town centre reinvention.