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Marcus Westbury is the founder and Creative Director of Renew Newcaslte. The problem of vacant shop fronts in Newcastle had been a particular interest of Westbury’s for many years. By 2008, his percolating ideas had been refined into a plan needing a legal framework to implement.

Rod Smith, a young lawyer with Newcastle’s homegrown legal form Sparke Helmore, found a way around the default framework of leasing properties. Smith developed a licensing agreement unique to Renew Newcastle giving property owners the confidence to ‘lend’ their vacant properties while they remained untenanted.

Fellow founding partner, Marni Jackson, soon became the first employee and local face of Renew Newcastle. She unpacked the vision into a workable reality, finding willing participants to bring this idea to life. In December 2008, the General Properties Trust (GPT) signed on as the first property partner, and Renew Newcastle took its first steps towards change in the city centre.

The Renew story is recorded in Marcus’ book Creating Cities.