Concept to activate CBD

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 it’s 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. 

Busselton Chamber of Commerce and Industries chief executive officer Jo Richards said it would ‘definitely support this concept’ and were considering a number of options to revitalise the CBD.

“We are working with the the City of Busselton to initiate activities, particularly on weekends to encourage retailers to open on the weekends,” she said.

“Currently, businesses struggle to open on weekends as there is limited foot traffic. It needs to be a strategic and concerted effort from all stakeholders to ensure success.

“Business owners, land owners, the City of Busselton, the BCCI and the community in general need to all be on board.”

Other regional chambers are also supportive of the concept, including Bunbury and Margaret River.

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.”