INCENTIVES: Roland West (left) and Marcus Westbury, who reinvigorated Newcastle.
INCENTIVES: Roland West (left) and Marcus Westbury, who reinvigorated Newcastle. John Mccutcheon

Noosa plots a path towards retail renewal

A GROUP of passionate business leaders are plotting ways to revive struggling retail centres in the Noosa region.

Five Noosa business organisations invited urban renewal expert Marcus Westbury to tell the story of Newcastle's rejuvenation at Tewantin yesterday, and will this weekend discuss how his model could be used to fill empty shops in Noosa Junction, Eumundi, and at Noosaville's industrial area.

Mr Westbury, of Renew Australia, has become one of Australia's most influential urban development thinkers after his DIY urban renewal project transformed Newcastle's dying main street into a thriving city heart. Mr Westbury is about to launch ABC TV series Bespoke, which charts the rise of professional artisanship in Australia, and argues this phenomenon has a key role in future economic growth.

Does Noosa need its retail sector renewed?

This poll ended on 01 August 2016.

Current Results

Yes, it's dead as it is


Yes, not urgently but it'd be good


No, I like the way it is


No, it doesn't


This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

To understand the significance of Renew Australia's urban revitalisation model for the Sunshine Coast, you need to see the change they created over time, says Mr Westbury.

Imagine a main street with 150 vacant buildings - sad, empty, graffiti-riddled shops. "For Rent" signs hang in empty window displays and provide lonely symbols of commercial hope.

That was Newcastle's main street in 2008 before Renew Newcastle, Mr Westbury's first not-for-profit venture, began connecting landlords of vacant buildings with creative professionals.

Fashion designers, jewellers, photographers and other creatives were provided free rent, and in exchange, they fitted out the shops and based their businesses there. As the movement gained momentum and the town came to life, some of the creative enterprises made enough money to start paying rent. Landlords allowed others to stay on for free until a better offer was made, and shop by shop the main street was revitalised.

"Ten shops with nobody paying rent is better then 10 empty shops," Mr Westbury said.

Left to their own devices, shopping strips could decay really quickly, he said.

"What's happened is by filling the space in with interesting businesses, it attracts people to come back to the place," he said.

Noosa business leaders think this model could work in their neighbourhood, said Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland Noosa vice-president Peter Chenoweth.

"We've certainly had instances at times of empty shops in Hastings St and Noosa Junction," Mr Chenoweth said. "Hastings St is at the moment reasonably full (so) the focus will be on Noosa Junction."

Noosa Shire Council, the Hastings Street Association, Noosa Junction Association and Noosaville Business Association have worked with CCIQ Noosa to fund Mr Westbury's visit.

They will spend the weekend discussing ways the strategy could be adopted in the local region.