The Commons is located on what used to be the site of the Crowne Plaza Hotel (cnr Kilmore and Durham Streets, central Christchurch) which was demolished in 2012. The site is now a hub of transitional activity and home to a number of post-quake organisations. 

Purpose of The Commons
To be a welcoming, ever-evolving community space. A space that connects people to their inner-city and to each other.  Want to hold an event or test an idea?  Get in touch with us!  Email thecommons@gapfiller.org.nz.

What do we want to achieve?
We want to create a space where people feel they can contribute to making ideas come to life; a space they can help to shape; a space for small-scale experimentation; a space that feels welcoming and inclusive. The site should serve as an invitation to people who want to do things here – projects, events and more. It will evolve and change to support new ideas and ‘makers.’

The former Crowne Plaza Hotel site has been licensed for transitional projects through an agreement between the Christchurch City Council (site owners) and Life in Vacant Spaces. The Commons project is now an experiment in a new partnership-style agreement between CCC and Gap Filler.


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The Crowne Plaza hotel was demolished in 2012, as a result of the February 2011 earthquake . The Crowne Plaza (initially called the Park Royal) opened in 1988 and was designed by well-known Christchurch architectural firm, Warren and Mahoney. Before that, Victoria Street continued through the site towards Victoria Square, previously called Market Square. Many small shops occupied either side of the street such as a cobbler, pharmacist and spice and coffee traders. This area of the city has long been associated with trade and food and is significant for Ngāi Tahu in its proximity to the river as a place where trading activity took place.

Up until May 2013, the site was licenced, occupied and managed by Gap Filler, who moved to the site and built the temporary, community venue from 3000 wooden pallets called the Pallet Pavilion in the second half of 2012. The Pallet Pavilion was a stand-alone entity that was managed by a small team within Gap Filler. In June 2013, Life in Vacant Spaces (LiVS) moved its office to the site as well as taking on the licence agreement with the owners to better allow for more users on site. The Volunteer Army Foundation (VAF) began building an office on site in early 2013 too. The Arcades Project, a series of ten laminated timber archways, was completed shortly thereafter, developed by FESTA (the Festival of Transitional Architecture) with Dr Jessica Halliday, Andrew Just and Dr Ryan Reynolds.

The Pallet Pavilion, and indeed the whole site, was run as a community venue with amenities provided: security, power, site maintenance, audiovisual equipment, a small management team, food and drink available to buy on site, toilets, rubbish collection, a woodfired pizza oven and more. To find out more about this amazing project visit this page. The Pallet Pavilion was deconstructed across April/May 2014.

In late 2013, it was decided that the site needed a name to better reflect all the organisations and projects on the land. “The Pallet Pavilion site” didn’t quite work for us, so we put it out to our various communities for input and The Commons was what we got after suggestions and a vote. Members of the different groups and projects on site came together one snowy day in Winter 2013 to create some shared principles for The Commons which would allow us to respond to enquiries from others about using part of the site. These are below.

Values and Principles of The Commons
In the interests of clarity and transparency, the key stakeholders on this site have developed a set of values and principles by which they wish to be bound in their operation, activation and management of this site.

These are not presented as absolutes, but as a set of evolving aspirations:

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  1. The project or group should exist for the greater community good and be focused on community engagement.
  2. The group or project should be related to the post-earthquake environment and is likely to have started up as a result of the quakes.
  3. The group or project should be engaged in some level or form of social change.
  4. The group or project should actively respond to questions of site, space, and/or design in their proposed work on the site, and be interested in collaborating with other groups on responses to these questions.
  5. The group or project should be focused on locale and locals: it should be by locals, for locals but not be exclusive in its audience.
  6. The group or project should show evidence of being resourceful and self-managing.
  7. The group or project should be able to show evidence of adding value and diversity to the site.
  8. The group or project should be relocatable.
  9. The group or project should be able to demonstrate some evidence that it is creating spaces or equivalent for (local) producers, creators or similar.
  10. The group or project should demonstrate a pragmatic fit to the site and its transitional ethos.

These principles were created by representatives from LiVS, Gap Filler, Volunteer Army Foundation, Makercrate and The Arcades Project in June, 2013.

The group that meets to make decisions about the The Commons includes representatives from Gap Filler, LiVS, and the Arcades. We call ourselves the ‘Commons Council’. 🙂

Contact us

Pop in: 70 Kilmore Street (former Crowne Plaza)

Email us: hello@thecommons.org.nz

Call us: 0204 0035 811

Post: PO Box 166 Christchurch 8140

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