Empty Building idea: Make a Zen-like space for your people


A large room, walls draped in fabric arts in earth tones. Comfortable lounge chairs arranged on a rug.

At the Main Street Now Conference in Boston, I joined a trolley tour of the six Dorchester Main Streets.

We got a chance to walk through The Guild‘s expansive building. While this space is only one of many projects of The Guild, it was the one that caught my attention as useful for small towns.

The building was furnished and opened in less than 5 months for less than $100,000. It’s intended as a healing space, a calm space where anyone from the neighborhood can come in and relax for a time. They also hold special events for the community. Not weddings or parties, but more community oriented gatherings.

The art is from local artists. Many of the earth-toned wall hangings are dyed with the actual dirt from this neighborhood, that’s how rooted this is in the community.

  • You could pop-up a similar community healing space temporarily, and for a lot less money. I bet small towns could borrow just about everything they’d need, including the building.

Which feels better downtown: a calming space or an empty building?

Vacant buildings, especially formerly significant ones, are reminders of loss, Trinity Simons Wagner of the Mayors’ Institute on City Design said at the Placemaking Conference.

That empty building as a reminder of loss adds negative weight to everyone’s perception of your downtown. Your people deserve a calming space like this much more than yet another empty building.

This also ties into the Wellness Travel trend we’ve mentioned. Wellness appeals to both locals and visitors. maybe pop this up around the time of a big event.

Photos by Becky McCray.

What do you think about doing this in your community?

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About Becky McCray

Becky started Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town business people. She and her husband have a small cattle ranch and are lifelong entrepreneurs. Becky is an international speaker on small business and rural topics.


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