The Power of Free Real Estate
Throughout the month of June, a group of people in San Francisco are conducting an experiment in improvisational community creation. [freespace] is a 14K sq ft blank canvas for anyone looking to present his or her talents, ideas, classes, swaps or anything else to the greater community. It is, as one of its members declares, “a big empty building filled with people who care.”
The project came to be after the founders were given a $1, one month lease for the vacant SOMA neighborhood warehouse (if you’re unfamiliar with SF real estate, this is a good deal). While we apologize profusely for the delayed announcement, there is still a lot going on for the remaining 12 days of June–yoga classes, a TEDx event, hackathons, live music, salons and much more.
One of the most endearing aspects of [freespace] is its sense of urgency. With a 30 day lifespan, there’s no dilly-dallying. They have started several projects meant to endure beyond June, including a 30 day garden, a mobile learning center for the homeless, a matchmaker-service for muralists and walls and its own bikeshare program.
To us, [freespace] exemplifies the increasingly paradoxical nature of many of the world’s leading cities. On the one hand, the cities often hold the highest concentrations of creative energy that make living there so great. On the other hand, the rising cost of these cities–both for commercial and residential real estate–make the conditions inhospitable for that creativity to flourish. People with jobs of indeterminate value (see artists) and real estate that doesn’t generate a lot of money are usually excised or marginalized by the city.
In fact, a project like [freespace] only exists due to the largesse of its donors (the city, its real estate broker and property owner)–and it’s only for a month. The [freespace]ers have launched a fundraising campaign to cover July’s $24K rent, but have only raised $3700 to date.
We wish [freespace] the best of luck and hope that similar projects arise in other cities–ones that might endure for more than a month. By providing large, low or no cost communal spaces for people to meet and create in, we imagine the creativity that makes our cities so valuable will flourish once again.