Council may help traders

PEOPLE looking to open specialty retail businesses such as fashion boutiques and tourist gift shops in Northbridge could soon be getting financial help from the Perth City Council.

Lord Mayor Peter Nattrass said council was committed to boosting Northbridge so it remained Australia’s “premier night life area” but specialty retail shopping could help the area attract consumers during the day.

Northbridge already draws 30,000 people on Friday and Saturday nights and is busy most other nights.

However, it is relatively quiet during the day so a deeper retail sector will help.

Dr Nattrass said he was a great supporter of providing incentives to get what council wanted.

Council uses rate and planning fee incentives to encourage more inner city living, giving inner city residents a three-year rate holiday and developers up to 75 per cent off planning fees for an inner city residential development that proceeds.

Dr Nattrass said council had not formally considered plans for any such retail incentives but would support them.

Northbridge businessman Mal Bennett said such incentives would be welcomed in the precinct.

He said it desperately needed specialty retail such as fashion boutiques and gift shops to compete with other tourist spots such as Fremantle and Subiaco.

“Northbridge needs other attractions,” he said.

“More retail will bring people into the area and keep it alive during the day.”

Northbridge is one of Perth’s major tourism drawcards. Of the 500,000 international visitors that came to Perth last year, half of them went to Northbridge, mostly to enjoy the nightlife.

Mr Bennett said the loss of the Saturday and Sunday street markets planned for Northbridge had been a blow.

“I still believe those markets would have been a huge tourist drawcard,” he said.

The Perth City Council employed Sydney’s Rocks Markets creator Frank Elgar in 1995 to create a concept plan for the creation of similar markets in Northbridge and the CBD.

Mr Elgar’s work eventually came to nought in 1998 with councillors balking at the cost of running the markets themselves. Attempts to find private operators to run the markets also failed.

Several Northbridge business people also spoke against the plan.

Mr Bennett said the benefits the markets would have brought would have far outweighed any of the problems.

“The markets would have given Northbridge a dimension it is lacking,” he said.

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