The City of Sydney (City) owns a number of commercial and community properties, including retail and office space across the local government area. These properties may be empty for short periods between tenancies. The Short Term Empty Properties (STEP) program provides immediate and short-term activation of temporarily vacant or under-used properties within the City's portfolio. The properties are offered from one month to one year.

The program supports creative practitioners, cultural organisation; community organisations and social enterprises; businesses and startups that support local economy; and organisation with a focus on sustainability and the environment. Preference is given to applicants based in the local government area or to projects that can demonstrate significant benefit to the local community. The program is open to not-for-profits, for-profits, sole traders and unincorporated community groups.

Support is available in the form of significant reduction in rental charges for City properties that are available and suitable for the proposed activity.

Expected program outcomes

Initiatives and projects can contribute to one or more of these outcomes:

  • Activate temporarily vacant City owned properties for a short term with activities that reflect their cultural, social, economic and environmental strategies and action plans.
  • Increase engagement with the local community, including artists and creative organisation, small business and visitors.
  • Stimulate local economies by encouraging a diverse business mix with innovative or capacity building enterprises.
  • Increase opportunities and exposure for emerging and established enterprises including artists.
  • Increase opportunities for local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations.
Types of activities supported
  • CULTURAL ACTIVITIES that promote engagement with the local community and increase exposure for emerging and established artists and creative organisations.
  • COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES that improve access to digital inclusion, social cohesion and food security, and provide services to vulnerable groups.
  • ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT ACTIVITIES that include early startups, business groups and associations, pilots and 'living labs' for innovators, and event producers.
Assessment criteria

Applications will be assessed against the expected program outcomes and any advertised priorities at the time of application:

  • a strong concept for the space, including the project layout, look and feel.
  • consideration of the local precinct and local community.
  • experience in the delivery of similar projects.
  • evidence of how access to the opportunity will support the growth of the organisation or business.
  • ability to activate the space during business hours or a plan for how the space will be activated visually during these hours.
  • quality of the pitch outlining the concept for the space including supporting images, floor plans, mood board and details of referees.

To be eligible an applicant must:

  • demonstrate their organisation's work or proposal benefits the City of Sydney's residents, workers and/or visitors.
  • demonstrate that payment of commercial rents would cause financial hardship leading to a reduction or withdrawal of services.
  • must be either a not-for-profit organisation, for-profit organisation, sole trader or an unincorporated community group.
The Process

To be considered for a short-term space you will need to register an Expression of Interest for your “Project”.

Registered Projects that are compatible with the permitted use of an available property are shortlisted.

Shortlisted organisations/individuals will be invited to attend a site inspection to determine appropriateness of the property to the Project.

After inspection, interested organisations/individuals will be invited to submit a more detailed proposal.

Proposals will be reviewed, with the most suitable Project to be recommend to the City.

The successful organisation/individual will enter into a licence agreement with the City and become operational in the property for a maximum term of 12-months.

The Properties

Properties that could become available through the STEP program may include:

  • OFFICES – suitable for studios or temporary office space.
  • RETAIL – suitable for creative retail or exhibition space.
  • COMMUNITY – suitable for studio, office or rehearsal space.

All properties are offered on an ‘as is’ basis and the City will not undertake any works to the properties. Costs associated with specific fit out requirements including signage will be the sole responsibility of the organisation/individual. As the City is providing the properties at a greatly reduced rental, no further rental reductions will be provided, and the organisation/individual will be prohibited from making any claims for rental abatements, compensation or other monetary claims relating to any aspect of the properties, including associated with occupation of the properties. The organisation/individual will accept these terms as part of signing up to a licence for a property.

Projects will need to be compatible with the permitted use under any development consents for the property or zoning provisions for the land.

The Licence
  • The City and the organisation/individual will enter into the STEP licence for an initial term to be determined on a case by case basis (usually 3—12 months).
  • In order to enter into the licence with the City the organisation/individual must have a valid ABN.
  • Subsidised rent is $100 per week + GST paid to the City. In recognition of the significantly reduced rental, no other monetary benefits, rent reductions or compensation claims will be permitted or paid under the licence.
  • The organisation/individual is required to pay all outgoings related to the property (ie: electricity, internet, waste and cleaning).
  • Should the property continue to be available after the initial licence term, the organisation/individual may have the opportunity to holdover for month to month or extended for an additional period (to a maximum of 12 months only).
  • Upfront costs include a security deposit of four (4) weeks rent and rent is payable one (1) month in advance.
  • All organisations/individuals will require Public Liability Insurance. (In some cases, the City may be able to offer cover to early stage or start up groups who do not currently hold current insurance and have not previously traded.)
  • Retail spaces are required to take out Plate Glass Insurance.

Successful Projects will be expected to:

  • Comply with the terms of the Licence and the permitted use of the property.
  • Keep the property clean, presentable and safe.
  • Activate all areas of the property at a minimum of 8 hours a day, 5 days per week.
  • Work with the City to provide access to the property if required.
  • Participate, where possible in events and opportunities developed by the City.
  • Work with the City’s media unit to promote the STEP program and the Project.
  • Foster positive relationships with neighbouring tenants and community stakeholders.
  • Collaborate with other Creative Space program tenants and other local initiatives./li>
  • Provide data and feedback to the City on your experience in the STEP program.
Step 1: Register an EOI

Complete this form to register an Expression of Interest with the STEP program. Completing this form will not guarantee your Project a space but place it on a register. If one becomes available and it meets your criteria, you’ll be contacted to arrange an inspection (Step 2). Your EOI will be valid for 12-months.