The Victorian Greens have announced an unprecedented plan to revitalise local shopping strips in the wake of the deep blow inflicted by the COVID-19 crisis.
With local traders along strips like Chapel Street, Prahran Sydney Road, Brunswick and High Street, Northcote struggling to stay afloat and thousands of people’s jobs hanging in the balance, the Greens say state and local governments must roll up their sleeves to save our high streets.
The Greens are calling for a new Shopping Strips Revitalisation Unit embedded in the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions to oversee the plan, which would include:
- Support for artist studios and pop-up shops to open in vacant premises
- Upgrading streetscapes with improved footpaths, tree coverage and pop-up outdoor dining areas to help people safely eat while COVID-19 restrictions are in place
- A vacancy tax on empty shop fronts to decrease vacancy rates and help lower rents
- Support for annual street festivals and regular events
- Further support for small businesses and workers to get the through the COVID-19 pandemic
Victorian Greens acting spokesperson for local government, Sam Hibbins, said communities didn’t want their local shopping strips to become casualties of the COVID-19 crisis, but that with the help of state and local governments they wouldn’t have to be.
As stated by Victorian Greens acting spokesperson for local government, Sam Hibbins MP:
“From Chapel Street in Prahran to High Street in Northcote – our shopping strips are the social and economic hearts of our communities and what make our suburbs such great places to live.
“If shops are vacant and people are out of work, it hurts the whole community. That’s why the Greens want to revive our local shopping strips during and after the COVID-19 crisis.
“Our plan will support local traders and create jobs for people in retail, hospitality, the service sector and the arts.”
As stated by Darebin City Councillor, Trent McCarthy:
“Over the past decade, I’ve taken a zero tolerance approach to vacant shop fronts in Darebin. Prolonged vacancies are like the missing teeth in the smile of a shopping strip and governments have a critical role to play in supporting local traders.
“I initiated Darebin’s award-winning Active Spaces program, which has matched dozens of artists, creative businesses, real estate agents and property owners. We’ve facilitated short term, low risk tenancies which have often led to long term leases and have revitalised our shopping strips. We now need to do this across Victoria.”
As stated by City of Stonnington council candidate, Mike Scott:
“The way we shop has changed significantly over the past five years and our shopping strips must evolve to meet changing customer habits and community needs.
“Our shopping strips can offer a different experience to the huge shopping centres like Chadstone or Highpoint. Connecting local traders and creating community hubs is what will set them up for a sustainable future.
“People connect with each other when they visit their local shopping strips – that’s why we need to bring the community back into our High Street precincts.”