Where one person may see empty space, Marcus Westbury can see potential.
Cessnock City Council, in partnership with the local Chambers of Commerce, invited the innovative Renew Newcastle founder to take a tour of the area, and then present his findings and ideas, as well as conducting a Q&A session.
The concept behind Marcus' successful Renew Newcastle scheme, founded in 2008, was to utilise the empty buildings around Newcastle's inner city to encourage creative enterprises, artists and cultural projects to flourish in what would otherwise be empty space.
“It was an opportunity like no other, to have Marcus come to our area and speak with members of our community about how to renew the Cessnock LGA,” Mayor Bob Pynsent said.
“If you just look at what he's done already with the Renew project in Newcastle ‚Äì it's a thriving, vibrant artistic community and he has really been a leader in creating this rejuvenation of culture.”
Presenting his insights and observations for placemaking and site activation at a business and community luncheon on Friday 11 April 2014, Marcus said that an empty space is an opportunity lost.
Approximately 40 people attended the luncheon, including a representative from each of the Chambers of Commerce, to hear Marcus' thoughts after being guided around Cessnock, Branxton, Kurri Kurri and Wollombi.
First and foremost, the recommendations were based upon the Renew model; find an unused shop, enter into an agreement with the tenants, adopt the space and find a cheap and interesting way to make it your own.
“Marcus' talk about giving an old space a new purpose, matching creative people to spaces that would be conducive to the revitalisation of an entire CBD gave myself and the people in the room inspiration on what could be done throughout the Cessnock LGA,” Mayor Pynsent said.
“When we were walking down Vincent Street the other day with Marcus, you do notice the empty spaces, but the potential for a creative hub there is substantial,” he continued.
Marcus pointed out that Renew has always been a practical solution to real world problems and a gateway for people wanting to enter the world of retail.
“If you can give an opportunity to people who have an idea, who are also living within the community, to be able to cross that gap between just thinking about selling their items online to being able to have their own shop front or space in a larger area ‚Ä¶ then that's when a new purpose is given not only to that individual space but also to the area surrounding it,” Marcus said.
Image | Marcus Westbury with Mayor of Cessnock, Councillor Bob Pynsent on the tour of the LGA