PLANS to revitalise the shire’s town centres have been put in motion with a vote to adopt an innovative commercial renewal program.
Bega Valley Shire councillors resolved at their last meeting to implement the Renew Australia program, which is geared to transform empty shops and offices into vibrant commercial centres.
BVSC’s acting general manager Leanne Barnes said Renew Australia grew from the successful Renew Newcastle project, which was established in 2008 as a low cost, low budget DIY urban renewal scheme.
She said the strategy was to work with creative communities and property owners to take otherwise empty shops, offices, commercial and public buildings and make them available to incubate short term use by artists, creative projects and community initiatives.
“The Newcastle program proved highly successful and generated significant media and community interest locally, nationally and internationally,” Ms Barnes said.
“Less than two years later more than 70 new businesses and initiatives had been seeded as the direct result of Renew Newcastle’s activities.”
Ms Barnes said Renew Australia would provide service based training, consultancy, research and other services to the BVSC, developers and property owners.
Earlier this year Renew Australia received $300,000 over three years to expand the program into regional and remote centres.
“It has been identified through consultation with BVSC’s cultural planning committee that the Bega Valley Shire would be an ideal community-economic mix for a successful model,” Ms Barnes said.
“The program is suitable for any commercial location in the shire, including Bermagui, Bega, Merimbula and Eden, and smaller towns as well.
“Renew Australia will provide mentorship, hold meetings with key stakeholders, train Council staff and generally help us to put a local scheme together.
“The Renew program is designed to accommodate local interest groups such as chambers of commerce, peak arts organisations and a wide range of other stakeholders who want to see our towns thrive.
“Christmas and the busy season are coming, and we’d like to see people in shops and a renewed interest in our commercial zones hopefully in place by early December,” Ms Barnes said.
The workshops will be split into community sessions that explore the requirements from the artist and entrepreneur, and business sessions that focus on the opportunities for commercial property owners and agents looking to market (see breakout).