This paper positions the now-redundant Australian Renew Newcastle scheme for temporary building occupation as an example of ‘meanwhile use’: the UK term for the sanctioned short-term use of vacant urban properties awaiting redevelopment. Renew Newcastle was a direct response to the very particular urban conditions of its regional host city, yet its approach reflects the increasing normalisation of temporary urban tenure as a technique of urban renewal. From late 2008 until early 2019, it populated the regional city’s vacant shopfronts and offices with arts and cultural activities using 28-day occupation licenses. Renew Newcastle’s successes were widely lauded and contributed to the city’s 2011 recognition as one of the world’s top ten global tourist destinations (Lonely Planet, 2011).
The paper situates Renew Newcastle’s approach within the historical continuum of spatial practices extending from the twentieth-century radical grassroots form of UK ‘licensed squatting’ through to more recent for-profit examples. It also highlights the differential impacts and implications of commercial and non-commercialised forms of meanwhile use to reinforce their interdependency with wider urban renewal policies processes and conditions — radical or otherwise.