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Manchester designers take a stand against 'zombie car parks' with pop-up community hub proposal

Manchester-based creative 3D agency Spacemen has taken a stand against the spate of “zombie car parks” cropping up across the city with a proposal to turn the empty sites into community spaces.

Revealed to the public earlier this week ‘SpaceMCR’ would use shipping containers to create a space that could be hired out to brands or investors in the short term.

“The idea was born out of frustration really,” explained Spacemen co-founder Adrian Taylor in conversation with The Drum.

“Our studio is right in the middle of the Northern Quarter and within six weeks of Dobbins department store being burnt down it had been cleared and turned into a car park. Thankfully there was a lot of local protest and it’s not been given permission but it’s literally just a hole in the ground now.”

In addition to the ‘zombie car park’ problem Taylor revealed that the lack of green space in the area has also been a catalyst for the idea.

“What we’re proposing isn’t a permanent fix as one assumes the land will get bought, but as it's modular it can move around various sites. It would fulfil two things – making the land useable in the short term and create a community space,” he added.

“At present it’s a concept, we just wanted to get the idea out there rather than trying to get backers or funding. The aim was to see if people were interested, which I think they are, so now we’ll look at the practicalities of it.”

In just a few days Spacemen’s idea has already garnered support from councillors, local politicians and local businesses including that of The Charlatans frontman Tim Burgess – Tim Peaks.

“We’ve done some work with Tim before so we emailed him the idea and his initial reaction was that it sounds really great and he’d like to talk about it some more,” said Taylor. “I’m hopeful we might be able to make the most of his support and see where it could take us.”

Of whether or not Spacemen would run the site Taylor said he wouldn’t want it to “just get taken over” but accepts that as experiential designers who do “interiors, exhibitions and events” they may need to call on the people whose “expertise lies more in the strategic organisation of something like that.

“I suspect there will be a lot of hoops to jump through in regards to health and safety, licensing and noise pollution,” he laughed.

Other proposed spots include Spear Street, Port Street, Ancoats and the site of the old BBC building on Oxford Road.

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