Think HBR

Renewing Newcastle

Marcus Westbury
Renew Newcastle
For as long as I can remember the renewal of Newcastle was something that was going to happen. I’ve had a running joke that the big scale revitalisation of Newcastle is two to five years away … and it always has been. While things may finally be moving it is as important now as ever to remember that renewal is something that can, is and should be happening around us all the time.
In 2008, Marni Jackson and I sat down in a building above a Hunter Street Mall that had more than 20 empty shops in and signed an agreement with GPT to borrow some of those buildings. They were the first of more than 70 empty properties that Renew Newcastle has “borrowed” from their commercial owners to incubate new things in. GPT were the first of more than a dozen property owners.
Since 2008 Renew Newcastle has helped launched 192 creative projects, small businesses and community initiatives in what would have been empty spaces in the city. We have seen more than 30 of those grow into viable businesses — they’ve signed leases and put down roots. Other commercial businesses have grown the confidence to invest around them.
Many have gone on to become significant employers. Two have even bought buildings. Today Renew Newcastle manages 51 projects and 23 properties. It’s bigger than it has ever been.
Renew Newcastle has literally gone shop by shop, block by block and cleaned up and fixed up the city. Few, if any, of those properties are empty again. A whole new story of Newcastle has emerged in international publications, in flight magazines and even Lonely Planet. Last year Newcastle council’s visitor survey found the Hunter Street Mall is the city’s second most popular tourist attraction (behind Nobby’s beach).
Renewal is not just about the big things. It’s about getting the small stuff right. It’s about tapping into the incredible depth of passion, talent and initiative in this region. It’s about rolling our sleeves up.
Sometime you get the little things right and the big things will follow, not the other way around. For further information visit