marcus westbury

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TIME is on my side (and WIRED too)

August 29th, 2009 by marcus


OK, “on my side” is something of an exageration. But Justin Fox, the business and economics columnist for TIME magazine has written a little piece about Renew Newcastle in TIME’s The Curious Capitalist economics blog. I like Justin’s work and have been known to leave the odd comment on his blog at times.

His article has a few quotes from the more economics centric slabs of my Hunter Valley Research Foundation lecture last week.

It is interesting to note that the problems of dysfunctional commercial real estate markets are universal enough to apply even in New York although sadly Justin is not convinced that a Renew Upper West Side is going to take off any time soon:

Marcus came up with a clever partial solution in Newcastle—starting an nonprofit called Renew Newcastle that persuades property owners to let it take over their vacant commercial space on a rolling 30-day basis and then cleans it up and rents it out for use as shops, galleries, studios and a tea house. I don’t know how you make that work in a neighborhood like mine that isn’t in obvious need of rejuvenating but does have a temporarily dysfunctional commercial real estate market (that is, I can’t imagine landlords along Broadway agreeing to participate in Renew Upper West Side). But the common theme—that commercial real estate is prone to market failure—is pretty striking.

I don’t think i posted it here, but Renew Newcastle also got a bit of attention over in the blogs at Wired Magazine also:


Bruce Sterling wrote a little commentary about the project that concentrated more on the Geeky, free wi-fi, open source, permanent beta aspect of the whole thing:

Note that this NGO does not sell anything or engage in any real-estate speculation; nor does it offer anything remotely like a permanent solution. “Permanent beta.” …

There is genius in this; it’s just like Twitter pretending to be a business until an actual business model shows up.

His was an interesting take that seemed to embrace the rather lateral transcience that is embedded in the whole thing. It’s an aspect of the project that i personally love so it was great to see someone comment on it — it tends to be something that the Australian media and arts community has barely commented on.

It’s nice to see that the unique and (am i allowed to say “innovative” or is it just cheating when you use that term in reference to your own stuff?) approach we’ve been developing in Newcastle is being noted far from home.

If only i can somehow nail The Economist.

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3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 far out brussel sprout Aug 29, 2009 at 5:55 pm

    ‘Lateral transience’ – that’s a great description of what you are doing. I think people are finding it refreshing and motivating to see projects happening all over the world these days where a commercial interest isn’t the predominant motivator. It’s like doing something that just makes you feel good about life is good reason enough. And so it should be.

  • 2 Lillian Aug 31, 2009 at 9:29 am

    Hi there

    Do you know about Arts Council England’s new funding stream, Sustain? It’s all about funding artists to take over vacant spaces.

    There’s also similar work on a national governmental funding level since the recession. Is anything like that happening in Australia?

  • 3 marcus Aug 31, 2009 at 9:32 am

    I do know a little about it and am investigating it more. There is no such scheme here although we are working to get something similar up and happening here.