Mayor Greg Williamson and Renew Newcastle Christopher Saunders
Mayor Greg Williamson and Renew Newcastle Christopher Saunders Mark Sleeman

Council introduces quirky concept to help city heart

HANDING out vacant shopfronts to mum and dad vendors for little rent is being heralded as the latest ingredient in the giant gumbo being cooked up to feed the malnourished Mackay CBD.

The council has brought in the minds from Renew Newcastle in a bid to spur property owners and landlords in the city heart to consider the idea.

The Renew Newcastle model finds spaces for artists and budding businesses in the short to medium term within vacant shopfronts in the CBD.

General manager Christopher Saunders said the Renew model didn't believe in reducing rents on empty city-heart shopfronts.

"You can't reduce the cost rents because that devalues the property, that is key," he said.

"Let's license that property at a nominal cost or nothing. In fact the way the Renew Newcastle initiative worked was we borrowed the space from the property owner.

"It brought the city alive, it shone a spotlight on the city and brought investment from outside."

It comes as Mayor Greg Williamson recently revealed the council was working to corral city-heart landlords into a committee, a majority of who live outside Mackay.

The council is also working with the government to attract the public sector to the city and is looking at how best to spend the $1million raised through the "city heart levy" each year.

"We can't expect a rejuvenation of Mackay city centre overnight. Our task is to find the innovative solutions that drag people back into town and back into shopfronts ... The more traffic you get the more businesses you spawn."

An independent economic study by the University of Newcastle in 2017 found that for every $1 invested in Renew Newcastle it returned $14.40 and added $3million to the economy.