Renew Newcastle moves beyond its inner-city turf and shifts its focus to surrounding suburbs.

New territory: Renew Newcastle general manager Christopher Saunders in Newcastle West. Picture: Penelope GreenIF you ownan empty retail building in Hamiltonand surrounds and you like Renew Newcastle’s record of spacereactivation, call them.
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General manager Christopher Saunders has made the appeal to building ownersas Renew spreads its tentacles as opportunities in its traditional stomping ground of inner-city Newcastle dry up.

Renew is, he says, “excited” by the purchase of the Hunter Street mall precinct by Sydney-based hotelier and developer Iris Capital, whose CEO Sam Arnaout has described himself as a“real believer” in Newcastle.

“There’s a new buyer and lease of life coming in, it’s what we’ve always supported and we’d like to work with the new owner,” he said.

Mr Saunders says Renew’s five-year effort to reactivate the inner-city byplacing about 80 artists, cultural projects and community groups in disused buildings until they become commercially viable or were redeveloped had boosted the mall’s valueand decreased crime there.

“What Renew offers is the opportunity to bring life and vibrancy back into the street, which will lure other commercial entrepreneurs, which is what has happened in the Mall and is evidenced by the fact we don’t have any more buildings [to reactivate] there,” he said.

As such, Renew has quietly been making inroads into other suburbs: in Hamilton, it has leased out the top floor of the Clock Tower to eight photographers who are using both office space and a converted studio.

In recent days, it has placed educator, singer-songwriter and teacher “Lu Quade” (Luke Wade) into a building on Maitland Road,Islington, owned by someone whose own artistic endeavours were intially supported by Renew in an exhibition at The Emporium (the former David Jones building).

Mr Saunders says Renew would “love to access” 14 empty shops in Beaumont Street, where business owners say there has been a marked increase in crime since the truncation of the city’s rail line.

“We’d love to access them,” he says.“You could say crime has increased there, but I’d argue that itinerants are more likely to be victims of crime. The [truncation] has impacted on businesses but this is change, and we need to work as a community.”

Renew is keen to work with Hamilton building owners to help them activate their retail space, adding value to their property and deterring crime.

“In the time that Renew has been in Newcastle there’s been a 25.6 per cent reduction each year in property crime,” Mr Saunders says.“We’ll keep your building safe and bring a potential long-term tenant that might lead to a commercial outcome.”

See renewnewcastle.org.


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