Thursday, 30 May 2013
Leichhardt Council could soon use the successful Renew Newcastle model to bring its struggling main streets back to life through a plan put forward by Mayor Darcy Byrne.
The proposal, which would see Council partner with Renew Australia, would allow pop up shops to take over empty properties in the Forum and along Norton Street and Parramatta Road for little or no rent.
The Renew Newcastle project has been highly successful in rejuvenating Newcastle’s CBD with 52 empty spaces featuring 100 creative projects since the project began in 2009.
Mayor of Leichhardt Cr Darcy Byrne said that Norton Street and the Italian Forum have faced increasing shop vacancies, with 13% of properties now empty and taking three to twelve months to lease.
“It is time for Council to confront the fact that Norton Street, once home to a thriving night time economy, is now littered with empty shop fronts,” said Cr Byrne.
“Converting vacant properties into performance spaces, galleries and entertainment venues will give people a reason to come to Leichhardt again.
“There are retail properties on the strip and in the Italian Forum that have been unused for years. Our local economy is in real trouble but a partnership with Renew Australian can help us to turn that around.
Councillor Byrne is keen to see the project inject life into the languishing Italian Forum.
“There are less Italian people in Leichhardt today than in the past but we must fight to keep the cultural identity Norton Street has always been famous for.
“We have a fantastic development in the Forum but it has struggled to strike a chord with diners and shoppers.
“It’s an ideal setting for popup creative projects from artists, designers, photographers, filmmakers, musicians, publishers and creative entrepreneurs, which has the potential to attract a whole new crowd and give a second wind to our Italian heritage.
Council will partner with founder of Renew Newcastle and Chair of Renew Australia Marcus Westbury, as well as Leichhardt Annandale chamber of commerce, to begin looking for landlords interested in taking part in the exciting program.
Since 2009 Renew Newcastle has been working with land owners in the Newcastle CBD to find short and medium term uses for buildings in Newcastle’s CBD that are vacant, disused, or awaiting redevelopment.
Renew Newcastle aims to find artists, cultural projects and community groups to use and maintain these buildings until they become commercially viable or are redeveloped.
Its aim was to activate the former High Street retail strip. The program was so successful it has evolved into Renew Australia and is now operating nationally.