The Empty Square is an international digital platform addressing the major urban challenges caused by COVID-19. The founders have a background in urban research and communication and have advised governments, municipalities, development banks, European interest organizations, private developers etc. for the past twenty years.
Earlier this year they were invited to attend the Danish government’s COVID-19 task force concerning town and city centrws. This quickly became the starting point for The Empty Square. Realizing the need for quick and innovative solutions, they began establishing a database of ideas, tools, and best practices that are fit to travel across the EU. Some of the core questions and solutions that are and will be addressed are:
• COVID-19 will set a heavy mark on urban retail. The high streets are already under pressure as it is. A town center bleeding retail outlets is a town center loosing revenue and social coherence. What kind of solutions are needed to help retailers?
• COVID-19 is having a negative effect on urban partnerships and cooperation. Partnerships are essential in preserving urban identity, bringing stakeholders together across silos, and securing private investments into towns and cities. In some countries we have a legislation to support the creating of entities such as Business Improvement Districts. In large parts of the EU, though, we don’t have a legislation to support the making of partnerships and must work through voluntary models. What can we learn from best practices? How can we set up strong, voluntary partnerships? How can we get private investments to flow after the pandemic?
• COVID-19 is having a heavy impact on the mental and existential balance of urban populations. This, in turn, is having a negative impact on local economies, job creation, household income etc. How can we find tools that support the resetting of community-based activities? How can we create a new local pride? How can we boost the creation of local jobs?
• COVID-19 is presenting a whole new challenge to the management of town and city centers. What can European towns and cities learn from each other? What are the best examples? What can a well-managed town center achieve? What is needed to bounce back after the pandemic?
The project is initiated by The Empty Square, a small private company based near Copenhagen, Denmark. They want to implement the UN SDG number 17, Partnerships for Action, in the project and have started building meaningful partnerships supporting the cause.
The Empty Square is fully digital. It was launched on the 6th of November. It is already receiving visitors from 25 countries.
They are already being informed that their findings and perspectives are having a positive effect on a local level. Knowledge and ideas are traveling across Europe. Urban professionals are sharing best practices and learning from each other.