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Some Councils respond to pop up…


Local Councils approach pop up in different ways….some are seeing great results !


I think it’s interesting how various Councils are addressing opportunities offered by pop up… (temporary retail, short-term tenancies, revitalisation initiatives… call them what-you-will). There doesn’t seem to be a consistent approach… that’s certainly not a bad thing (variety and experimentation can be very healthy !)

Perhaps the best-known and most-successful application of pop-up by a Melbourne Council is the work of the City of Darebin with their Active Spaces project. Within the space of 12 months they managed to facilitate 12 short-term pop up installations, with several of those going on to sign long-term leases. Their tenancies have included start-up fashion brands, artists in residence and community collectives offering locally-made products… Most recently they launched a fellow with his concept of a “construction club”… for a small fee, local kids (7 to 17 years old) can join in the creation of Lego mini-masterpieces, as an alternative to playing netball or cricket (or getting in trouble elsewhere…). Active Spaces has attracted significant media exposure (19 articles and counting…) – including the front cover and centre-spread of the CiVic magazine summer edition – Council was very pleased with that acknowledgment and exposure !

The City of Melbourne has included pop up in its latest (2013) strategy for retail and hospitality – hoping to encourage more of the eclectic and unique shopping experiences the city might offer by enabling seasonal pop up events, more late-night trading and enhanced WiFi coverage.

Other councils around Melbourne are well advanced with their pop up initiatives – the City of Kingston has hosted their Pop Up Bar for the past 6 weeks (their 2nd successful season – it closed last night but they’re already looking ahead to the next one). In 2013 the City of Boroondara used a $20,000 government grant to engage consultants for a review of pop up opportunities within shopping precincts (we’re yet to see a public report or result of the project)

Across the river, the City of Maribyrnong recently approved the Yarraville Pop Up Park as a permanent installation, in response to huge public outcry when it was threatened with closure. For the past couple of summers a vibrant public space had been created by installing planters, fake grass, seating and umbrellas on the road outside the Sun Theatre – but late last year Council voted against continuing it. And so, local businesses and residents rallied against the decision… in December there was a “flash mob” of 300+ singing “All I Want for Christmas is a Pop-up Park”, a petition was raised and attracted “thousands” of signatures, emails were sent… forcing Council to reconsider in light of overwhelming community support for the park.

The City of Geelong has been focusing on mobile food carts as a way of activating their under-utilised mall areas – being very mindful of concerns by existing traders who might view the pop ups as a threat to their established businesses (and who expect Council should support them in tough times, rather than introducing “competition”) That response is certainly not exclusive to Geelong ! The initiatives in Geelong are being considered (measured and reviewed) as potential for new and complementary businesses – but also as opportunities for the existing traders to participate and benefit from pop up.

Last week I attended a presentation by Marcus Westbury of Renew Australia – in which he described initiatives aimed at revitalising “empty spaces” via short-term tenancies. Renew Australia has grown out of the successful Renew Newcastle programme (a spectacular turn-around for the desolate and decaying main streets of Newcastle NSW)… Marcus and his team are now applying the Newcastle model to other urban and country centres, working with Council and corporate entities across several states (but based here in Melbourne)

The “Renew” initiatives are unique in Australia (but seen in similar forms widely across the UK and USA) – working with various stakeholders to “create places from empty spaces”. They’re a bit like a dating service for commercial properties – they’ll match deserving enterprises with locations which are otherwise vacant. Most of the “tenants” in the Renew properties are artists or community initiatives… looking for assistance to start out, test or promote their offerings – and hopefully grow into meaningful, sustainable businesses. The arrangement between tenant, landlord and the community is one of mutual opportunity and benefit (that’s the win-win-win of pop up !) Tenants are offered a rolling month-by-month lease – they don’t pay rent but are responsible for outgoings… landlords may see their property repaired and actively inhabited once more, potentially signed up for a long-term lease by the short-term tenant… and the community of local traders would expect to see an increase of activity (and interest / potential) as a result of the temporary installations.

The City of Yarra recently appointed Renew Australia to work with them on the Bridge Road precinct. It will be interesting to see how the “no rent” model is applied / accepted in Richmond… one of the major contributors to the forest of retail vacancies along Bridge Road has been spiralling rents (and many landlords’ reluctance to adapt to changing market conditions)…


A footnote on the role of Councils using pop up to invigorate and revitalise shopping precincts… Steve Bentley (Manager Events, Central Geelong and Waterfront) offered me this insight last week…(thanks Steve, well said !)

“As online selling is another tool available to ‘bricks and mortar’ businesses, so is temporary and mobile. It is important for Councils to have flexible and reasonable policies and procedures that allow existing and new businesses to take advantage of temporary opportunities…”


Featured image : Yarraville Pop Up Park – Herald Sun



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