Monday, 4 May 2015

1998: The Barriers that stop the shops

I'm putting this post up as our flashback for this week given that works are set to begin soon on the extension of Sydney's Light Rail Network from Central Station to Circular Quay.

  City streetworks june 25 1998 daily telegraph 21

Skelsey, M. 1998. "Barriers that stop the shops". The Daily Telegraph, June 25: 21.

As part of beautifying the streets of Sydney for the Olympics in the Year 2000, Sydney City Council spent tens of millions of dollars in upgrading city footpaths in parts of the Sydney CBD particularly in the financial and retail precincts. In mid 1998, when works were undertaken in Castlereagh Street, retailers told The Daily Telegraph (see full article above) that the upgrade works had caused a considerable fall in trade. They were even linking it to the Asian Currency Crisis despite Australia generally remaining unaffected economically.

The picture in the article shows to the extent in which access was restricted. There were narrow walkways with fencing blocking out shopfronts.

What is more interesting that they suggested that the high end retail precinct be relocated. One reason was the lack of sun. But we look to 2015 and it has only gone forward. The works did enhance the streetscape, making the area more attractive to shoppers and visitors. The upgrade of Westfield Sydney on the western side of the street provided further stimulus. It provided the retail spaces that the high end retailers want. Sydney's boutique retailing precinct has also expanded north into Martin Place and west towards George Street.

While some city businesses are complaining about how the closure of George Street for works will affect them, it needs to be understood that sometimes we need to endure short term pain for long term gain. The street will not be clogged anymore and people will have control of the street. Walk the narrow pathways on George Street and you'll realise how hard it can be to navigate the crowds during the lunch hour. Some businesses have admitted that they prefer cars to drive past the front of their stores for they will be able see what is on sale. But how can you see something that you want clearly from a car window?