Ten vacant shop fronts in the Italian Forum will be the first sites to host the Renew Leichhardt initiative, which Council progressed to its second stage on Tuesday.
The unanimous decision will see disused premises play home to a series of pop-up arts and culture projects aimed at revitalising the spirit of the troubled retail precinct. Stage one consisted of a $25,000 scoping study to identify potential sites.
Mayor Darcy Byrne was “extremely pleased at the progress that has been made on the project”.
He said the Forum used to be one of Sydney’s most iconic destinations, but that it’s now a “ghost town” with vacancy rates as high as any shopping precinct across the city. More than 60 per cent of stores are currently empty.
A Council officer confirmed the ten stores subject to the project were under strata title, and the co-operation of the Forum’s receivers, SV Partners, would not be required. The Italian Forum Limited was placed into voluntary administration on August 19.
Renew Leichhardt would be “giving people a reason to walk back into the forum”, Mr Byrne said, and is expected to be in operation by Christmas.
Stage two is budgeted to cost $126,000, with ongoing costs expected to be less. Additional sites on Norton St, Parramatta Rd and Darling St in Balmain will also be considered.
The Council will write to nearby local governments in an effort to extend the Renew project to other areas.
By Mason McCann