Newcastle project helps to revitalise failing retail centres

As online shopping and economic conditions continue to impact retail and commercial spaces throughout regional towns in WA, a need to renew and reinvent appears imminent.

A successful example of this can be found in New South Wales with Renew Newcastle, an initiative set up 10 years ago to support the then failing city.

General manager Christopher Saunders said it was a permanent structure for temporary things.

“It is taking advantage of underutilised property by borrowing them from the property owner and finding them suitable custodians to look after them until they are needed by the property owner to be redeveloped or because they have a good commercial lease option,” he said.

“The idea is rather than have a space empty and good for nothing you have someone in it and its about bringing life back into a community.”

Mr Saunders said it had proved valuable to the community and to property owners with 260 projects and 81 spaces activated to date.

“Back in 2008, Newcastle was boarded up, shut down and desolate with a lot of for lease signs up,” he said.

Mr Saunders said the model was something that could be used in many WA towns with 39 communities across Australia already adopting it.

Margaret River Chamber of Commerce deputy president Rebecca Hannan said it believed pop up shops in currently vacant spaces was a fantastic initiative.

“In principle the MRCCI would support and be involved in this project as it may breathe life and vibrancy to the town and empty shop spaces,” she said.

“While providing an opportunity for emerging business owners to test the market by trialing products, services and ideas without the expense of fitting out a retail shop and a long commercial lease.

“The MRCCI is mindful that this concept is regulated so that its fair for all and not at the expense of existing businesses that are in long commercial leases.”

Shire of Augusta Margaret River chief executive officer Gary Evershed said the shire would not get involved in the project as it didnt own the shops.

“It is important for the shop owners to ensure rents are low enough for businesses to be viable,” he said.

“The role of the Shire is to assist with Events sponsorship and facilities to attract visitors to the town which helps the viability of businesses.”

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