By June 2009, 28 groups had made their homes in 18 available spaces. Among them were art galleries, retail shops, and non-profit groups.
This video from 2011 provides some more context:
Although there are obvious rural/urban differences that merit acknowledgement here, there are a few universal lessons to be taken from Marcus's work:
- Be frank about challenges - Marcus approached property owners knowing that he would likely run into some resistance, but he was honest about the present state of the properties and the potential value to be gained from cutting out rent entirely.
- Find and use local assets (and be open to new definitions of the word 'asset') - The hat makers really bring this one home. They LOVE hats, they're thrilled to have a space to make them, and they're contributing to the economy in a way they would not have been able to otherwise. Marcus was probably not thinking "I want a hat maker in downtown Newcastle" at the outset, but their work fits nicely into his vision of economic vibrancy and renewal.
- Providing an area for people to connect hastens the pace of change - Although it would be difficult to measure, it is reasonable to assume the economic impact on this area due to coincidental, previously unlikely interactions has been substantial. There is a renewed public venue where ideas can be shared freely, and that is always a win for a local economy.
If you want to learn more (and I hope you do!), head to Renew Newcastle's website or find Renew Australia (his national non-profit) on Twitter.
Enjoy your Sunday,