The Commons is located on what used to be the site of the Crowne Plaza hotel which was demolished in 2012. The site is now a hub of transitional activity and home to a number of post-quake organisations.
About The Commons
The former Crowne Plaza site has been licensed for transitional projects through an agreement between the Christchurch City Council as the landowners and Life in Vacant Spaces (LiVS), one of the core site organisations. Gap Filler is the main site partner and oversee activity day to day on site.
Currently, the site is activated with a range of temporary projects by a number of different parties such as The Arcades project, Makercrate (3D printing fabrication lab and maker space), three small community organisation offices and a Food Collective comprising food trucks/caravans and some food growing in raised beds. We hope that more projects and events will come to site this Spring/Summer.
Purpose of The Commons
To be a welcoming, ever-evolving community space. A space that connects people to their inner-city and to each other.
What do we want to achieve?
We wanted to create a space where people feel they could contribute to making ideas come to life; a space they could help to shape; a space for small-scale experimentation; a space that feels welcoming and inclusive.
The site should serve as an invitation to people who want to do things here – projects, events and more. It will evolve and change to support new ideas and ‘makers.’
Who is part of The Commons?
As at March 11, 2015 we have on site:
Gap Filler HQ (Initiator: Gap Filler)
The Common Room (Initiator: Life in Vacant Spaces, now used as a co-working space by Greening the Rubble, FESTA and Gap Filler)
Makercrate (Initiator: Fabriko)
A cob pizza oven (Initiator: CPIT for FESTA 2012)
The Arcades Project (Initiator: Dr Ryan Reynolds, Andrew Just, Dr Jessica Halliday with LIVS and FESTA 2012)
Commons Food Collective (Initiator: Jess from Mamacita’s with Gap Filler)
Retro Sports Facility (Initiator: Gap Filler)
Grandstandium (Initiator: Gap Filler)
Greening the Rubble (Initiator: Greening the Rubble)
The Snug (Initiator: Gap Filler, originally from HIVE – the pre-fab NZ village on Curletts road)
Mobile OSAKA (Japanese) : Open 11.30am to 2.30pm Tuesday through to Saturday and some sunny Sundays!
Mamacita’s (Mexican) : Open Tuesday through Friday 11am to 3pm, Saturday and Sunday 9am to 3pm.
Cafe Miha: Open Tuesday – Saturday though Winter from 8:30am – 3:30pm. Cafe Miha is run by Mamacita’s.
Chimney Cakes (= Kurtos Kalacs, Transylvanean) : Variable. Usually Wednesday to Friday, 10am – 4pm
The Dukes of Sandwich (gourmet sandwiches) : Open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, 10am to 2.30pm
(*Food vendor hours vary and are subject to change).
Food Collective Principles
These principles were created in June 2014 by Gap Filler and Jess Lynch, the head of the Food Collective. They are principles that we try and work to as best we can.
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Food is affordable and high quality
Each vendor has a point of difference or a story that makes them unique.
Its point of difference from somewhere like Re:Start is that it is a community-based, rather than retail-based, food collective.
Educational and community events are part of the life of the collective.
One of a kind
For the most part we won’t have vendors on site the replicate what another vendor is doing, e.g. Only one person serving tacos.
Accessible and friendly
People are welcome to sit at the Food Collective tables and eat their lunch. They don’t need to have bought something to use the space.
Nurture and incubate
The Food Collective will welcome and support those who want to trial a food-based business by hosting them on this site.
Local and sustainable
We encourage food vendors to use as much local produce as possible and to keep packaging recyclable or compostable where possible.
We try to keep our waste to a minimum and access to compost through Agropolis Urban Farm.
Food vendors are encouraged to grow food on site and assist with maintaining the on-site raised beds.
We’re not that keen to support franchises on The Commons, preferring unique, one- off vendors.[/expand]
The Commons is located on a piece of central-city land left vacant after the demolition of the Crowne Plaza hotel in 2012, as a result of the February 2011 earthquake. The site has been licensed for transitional projects through an agreement between the Christchurch City Council as the landowners and Life in Vacant Spaces (LiVS). Gap Filler is the main site partner with Life in Vacant Spaces and oversees activity day-to-day on site.
The Crowne Plaza (previously called the Park Royal) opened in 1988 and was designed by well-known Christchurch architectural firm, Warren and Mahoney. Before that, Victoria Street continued through the site towards Victoria Square, previously called Market Square. Many small shops occupied either side of the street such as a cobbler, pharmacist and spice and coffee traders. This area of the city has long been associated with trade and food and is significant for Ngāi Tahu in its proximity to the river as a place where this sort of activity took place.
From late 2012 until May 2013, the site was occupied and managed by Gap Filler, who moved to the site and built the Pallet Pavilion in the second half of 2012. The Pallet Pavilion was a stand-alone entity that was managed by a small team within Gap Filler. In June 2013, Life in Vacant Spaces (LIVS) moved its office to the site and the Volunteer Army Foundation (VAF) began building an office there too. The Arcades Project, a series of ten laminated timber archways, was completed shortly thereafter, developed by FESTA (the Festival of Transitional Architecture) with Andrew Just and Dr Ryan Reynolds.
The Pallet Pavilion, and indeed the whole site, was run as a community venue with amenities provided: security, power, site maintenance, audiovisual equipment, a small management team, available food and drink, toilets, rubbish collection, a woodfired pizza oven and more. To find out more about this amazing project visit this page. The Pallet Pavilion was deconstructed across April/May 2014.
In late 2013, it was decided that the site needed a name to better reflect all the organisations and projects on the land. ‘The Pallet Pavilion site” didn’t quite work for us, so we put it out to our various communities for input and The Commons was what we got after suggestions and a vote. Members of the different groups and projects on site came together one snowy day in Winter, 2013 to create some shared principles for The Commons which would allow us to respond to enquiries from others about using part of the site. These are below.
Values and Principles of The Commons
In the interests of clarity and transparency, the key stakeholders on this site have developed a set of values and principles by which they wish to be bound in their operation, activation and management of this site. These principles also guide how new projects wishing to come to site and be considered. These are not presented as absolutes, but as a set of evolving aspirations:
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- The project or group should exist for the greater community good and be focused on community engagement.
- The group or project should be related to the post-earthquake environment and is likely to have started up as a result of the quakes.
- The group or project should be engaged in some level or form of social change.
- The group or project should actively respond to questions of site, space, and/or design in their proposed work on the site, and be interested in collaborating with other groups on responses to these questions.
- The group or project should be focused on locale and locals: it should be by locals, for locals but not be exclusive in its audience.
- The group or project should show evidence of being resourceful and self-managing.
- The group or project should be able to show evidence of adding value and diversity to the site.
- The group or project should be relocatable.
- The group or project should be able to demonstrate some evidence that it is creating spaces or equivalent for (local) producers, creators or similar.
- The group or project should demonstrate a pragmatic fit to the site and its transitional ethos.[/expand]
These principles were created by representatives from LiVS, Gap Filler, Volunteer Army, Makercrate and the Arcades Project in June, 2013.
The group that meets to make decisions about the The Commons includes representatives from Gap Filler, LiVS, the Arcades and the on-site Food Collective. We call ourselves the ‘Commons Council’. 🙂
If you’d like to propose a project for the site, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org