New project backs creative use of empty shops - MusicNSW

The creative renewal of Newcastle’s CBD during the past two years is set to spread to other centres backed by a new initiative called Empty Spaces.

Funded by Arts NSW and led by the University of Technology, Sydney’s Shopfront Community Program, Empty Spaces supports pop-up, short-term reuse of empty retail outlets for creative and community purposes.

Launched this week by NSW Minister for the Arts Virginia Judge, Empty Spaces is based on the template of Renew Newcastle, a project that has transformed that city’s centre with artist galleries, studios and shops.

“Newcastle is rapidly evolving into a drawcard for cultural tourism and it’s exciting,” Ms Judge said.

“Renew Newcastle has brought colour and life to the city’s heart, providing a focal point for artists, visitors and the local community. This has inspired other towns to look at what they can do to support the creative industries.”

Empty space-style initiatives are now starting up in Adelaide, Parramatta, Gosford, Lismore, Cairns, and Townsville.

Empty Spaces Project Manager Lisa Andersen said the project’s website provides tools to assist community leaders, entrepreneurs and creative thinkers in setting up an empty space initiative in their local community.

“Vacant, disused or soon-to-be-redeveloped buildings in town centres and high streets can be temporarily reenergised with uniquely local shopping and activities, a result that benefits the landlords as much as the artists and the wider community,” she said.

A toolkit for local organisers and more information on the Empty Spaces Project can be found at

It includes a guide to getting started by the founder of Renew Newcastle Marcus Westbury, case studies of empty space initiatives in NSW and elsewhere, and information on the planning and legal requirements.

The Empty Spaces Project is funded by Arts NSW in partnership with UTS, the Arts Law Centre of Australia, the NSW Department of Planning and Renew Newcastle.