Image: Tom Ross, trainee, with Paul Fletcher of The Common Ground
6 December 2018
On recent walks along Ridgway Street you may have been surprised to see people playing games – such as table tennis, giant Connect 4 and giant Jenga – in the open air.
In late November Paul Fletcher, of The Common Ground, opened a new ‘pop-up’ café in a renovated shipping container on a piece of unused ground at 45 Ridgway Street, and the outdoor games are set up in front of it.
Mr Fletcher says, “The commons, back in the day, was a public space where people gathered. We are hoping to create just that sort of space.
We would like this site to be a shared one, with everyone and anyone welcome to come and use the outdoor games”.
Ellen Young, Whanganui District Council’s Town Centre Regeneration project manager, says, “A core part of the Town Centre Regeneration Strategy is to create more activity in our central city spaces and provide young people with something to do, so it’s great to support this project as it really fits the bill”.
As well as providing a space to benefit the community, Mr Fletcher says The Common Ground also exists to provide local young people with “work experience in a highly supportive environment” and hopes to transition them into fulltime employment.
Currently the café has three young trainees. “They gain work readiness skills, build their confidence, and learn how to work in a team environment.”
Open from 7.30am-3.00pm Monday to Friday, the café is a non-profit business – 100% of any profits will be directed into community projects for young people.
Mr Fletcher says he was pleased to get the business “up and running and fully compliant in time for summer”. The pop-up café will be in place for six months.
Along the way The Common Ground has had support from various businesses and community organisations, such as Urban Effects, a local park and street furniture business which created the table tennis table.
Town Centre Chair Councillor Helen Craig says, “Being open to new ideas and supporting social enterprise is vital for town centre vibrancy and Paul Fletcher, Council staff and the landowner are to be congratulated for rising to the challenge”.