The holding period between planning approval and shovels going into the ground can take up to five years for most large-scale development, which is one of the reasons why our cities are plagued with a large number of empty spaces, devoid of purpose.

Youri Michel

Youri Michel

I’ve found that many asset owners struggle to see the potential that these sites hold during this period. But what if they changed their perception, exploring better ways to do business and make profits on these unused plots?

The good news is that a world of opportunity exists to maximise profitability while simultaneously benefiting a project’s surrounding neighbourhoods. This can range from temporary hospitality spaces to pop-up retail hubs.

From the owner’s perspective, the major advantage of developing ephemeral spaces on these sites is, unsurprisingly, to limit the loss of revenue during a time when the plot of land would otherwise remain idle.

But the financial incentives also extend to the vendors, who are presented with an opportunity to set up shop in a new area at a heavily discounted rent. This is particularly interesting for restaurateurs who are looking to trial new concepts or expand their client base for a reduced start-up cost and minimal risk, compared to a more traditional approach.

Local communities also gain from these temporary sites. In fact, for the greatest returns, it’s essential for the community to feature at the heart of the development plan to be in the good graces of the local authority and other stakeholders. It’s crucial to find any gaps in the local offer of cuisines and retailers to align with residents’ wants and needs.

“Property owners who think outside the box when it comes to yet-to-be developed plots stand to make big returns in the short and long term.”

Fenced-up and empty areas don’t boost a neighbourhood’s charm factor. Quite the opposite, as they are often targets for crime and anti-social behaviour, as well as being unsightly. Developing temporary spaces is a great way to reinvigorate areas that may be in need of a facelift. This often leads to commercial development and an increase in property value. In many cases, these development projects transform their neighbourhood into a buzzing destination, drawing in consumers from near and far.

What is often missing from areas ripe for rejuvenation are spaces for local residents to come together and rub shoulders with their neighbours. So, when these types of developments are created, they need to become local hubs: places for residents to meet friends in a pleasant atmosphere. This is especially important since the shift to remote working, making these places more needed than ever.

This is reflected in discussions about 15-minute cities and a growing desire for low-impact urban living. Less traffic and healthier lifestyles become possible if residents have access to all of their needs within a short walk or bike ride from their home.

With environmental concerns and cost-of-living challenges high on the agenda today, it’s time to rethink making the most of the limited resource that is space. Property owners who think outside the box when it comes to yet-to-be developed plots stand to make big returns in the short and long term.

Youri Michel is founder of Wyld Motion