Renew Armidale aims to restore confidence and activity in Armidale’s CBD … in a way that can benefit both landlords who currently have shops sitting vacant and unleased, and start-up businesses who need a chance to establish themselves. Aileen MacDonald, President of Renew Armidale, tells us more about the project …
Hi Aileen. What is Renew Armidale?
Renew Armidale is a group of us who aren’t satisfied with the state of the CBD. We looked around the country, to see how other cities are responding.
We invited the founders of Renew Newcastle to come and talk to us about 18 months ago. They explained their experiences and their model for bringing life back into the city centre. It planted a seed in our minds, and we have spent the last year building a similar organisation to tackle this issue. We are excited with the feedback and aim to have results soon.
What are the aims of Renew Armidale?
Renew Armidale is about using the template of Renew Newcastle to restore confidence and activity back into the city centre. Most towns around the world are feeling the impact of technology and changed retail behaviour. We are shopping online and in the shopping centres. We need the CBD to be reborn with new businesses and activities – more creative and innovation in the heart of our beautiful city. We don’t want empty shops and an empty heart in the centre of town. It can be turned around.
What’s your position with Renew Armidale – and what’s involved with this role?
I am the President of the Renew Armidale Inc. Assoc, for want of a better word. The first thing was to get sponsors, and I have to say we are so pleased that Regional Australia Bank and Armidale Guyra Business Alliance have come on board as sponsors, but with everything to really kick it off and make it work, we would love more sponsors or to access grants.
The main thing is to get it going, working with people who know that Armidale and Guyra have the potential to be vibrant, liveable spaces and making that happen by coordinating with landlords and creative entrepreneurs or start-ups to fill the empty spaces with something different, as well as making it easy for them to get in and use those spaces.
Whilst doing this, our towns become more lively, and the good feeling about being active and having a go rubs off – we again become proud of where we live and want to contribute to the success and build on it.
The role is to facilitate the change and continue being positive about our region.
Why do you feel Renew Armidale is necessary?
Renew is a response to the community’s concern about unoccupied shops in the city CBD and lack of vibrancy in Armidale’s central district.
How was the concept of “Renew” developed?
Renew was conceived by Marcus Westbury in 2008. He returned to his home city of Newcastle and was disheartened about the decline of the CBD and frustrated trying to find commercial property owners willing to give short term tenants a go.
Marcus was inspired to bring creative and innovative businesses into the city centre and fill the empty shops. He didn’t want long term leases or heavy financial commitments for his budding entrepreneurs.
Renew developed a boutique lease arrangement, to give these start-ups a go, while allowing the landlord the flexibility to take back the premises if they found a long term leasee.
How can property owners in Armidale become involved – and what are the benefits they can potentially receive?
The benefit for the property owner is to have their premises occupied. The Renew tenant must keep the premises in good condition. Additionally, the owner and everyone benefits from maintaining a busy, active CBD.
For those creative/entrepreneurial types in the area, how can Renew Armidale help?
This is their chance to come out from their garage and show their goods or services to the real world. Online business is great, but a shop front will help to engage and meet customers. Ideas are exchanged and tested. Networks and commercial skills are developed. Renew Newcastle showed about one fifth of the businesses they helped into a store front went on to become commercial. It is worth a try.
What are Renew Armidale’s plans/goals for 2019?
We want the community to give this a go. It succeeded in Newcastle, and that city is now booming. Renew was part of that journey.
Where can we find out further info?
You can email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact me via mobile: 0417 079 307, visit the website: renewarmidale.org or Facebook page.
Interview: Jo Robinson.