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Revival for Waterfront City

03 Dec 2012

Revival for Waterfront City Image

Empty retail spaces in Docklands are to be temporarily filled with start-up businesses and projects.

The Waterfront City Piazza area is to be the first area to be tackled by an alliance between MAB Corporation, Places Victoria and Renew Australia.

Renew Australia came to prominence in 2009 when it was responsible for the revitalisation of Newcastle’s retail district.

Founder Marcus Westbury is aware he faces different challenges in Docklands but he says the objective is the same.

“The aim is to get people to circulate in the area and build some interest and momentum,” he said.

He said Docklands was well served by public transport and could become a destination of interest if the offering was appealing enough.

“The thing about what will be created by the temporary tenants is that it will be unique,” he said.  “You won’t find it anywhere else in Melbourne.  And people are looking for that these days.  The reward is the discovery of something new.”

The Renew Australia model works on the principle of mutual benefit.

Landlords bear no cost and can reclaim their premises on 30 days notice should they get a commercial rental offer.  And tenants get free rent and an opportunity to experiment with their new businesses without entering into a long-term lease.

Insurances and overheads are taken care of by Renew Australia which, in turn, is funded by MAB, The City of Melbourne and Places Victoria.

Renew Australia has up to eight premises on ground and first floor levels facing the piazza ready to go when expressions of interest close in mid-January.

Mr Westbury expects the first temporary tenants to move in and start operating in mid-February.

He said the Newcastle experience suggests that some start-up businesses could become so successful that they become permanent commercial tenants in the future.

“It’s a dynamic situation.  Some will fall away, others will be more successful and some could stay the distance and become Docklands businesses,” he said.

“It’s an incubator model where people with ideas can come together and collaborate and experiment with what works and what doesn’t.”

“The cost of Docklands rentals has meant that there has not been a lot of diversity of commercial offering down here.”

“Our model means we can get a lot a of activity happening here without spending much money.”

Mr Westbury said ideal temporary tenants would be those whose business models did not depend entirely on passing trade to succeed.

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