What makes a good Renew Newcastle project?
There is no simple answer to that question but here are a few things that work for us:
It adds life to the city – The whole point of Renew Newcastle is to bring the city back to life. For shopfronts we need projects that will bring people to the city, that will be open most of the time and will bring a smile to people’s faces! Projects that are about using shopfronts for storage, or offices, or things that are rarely opened or hidden away are not.
It is unique – Renew Newcastle is not about turning the city into another suburban shopping centre or filling every shop with one type of gallery. It is about making Newcastle a place with a wide variety of unique creative things and energies and getting the best of Newcastle out and on display. Projects that showcase people making and presenting original things in Newcastle really tick our boxes.
It has a high degree of professionalism or a very clear idea – We have a limited number of spaces available so our highest priority will go to people who are serious about what they are doing and have a very clear idea of what they are trying to achieve. A shopfront may not be the best place to try out a new idea — our spaces are more suitable for people who are trying to take what they do to another level. The more you can demonstrate that you know what you are doing and why you are doing it the easier it is for us to get behind it.
It is ongoing – Renew Newcastle is after projects that will make ongoing uses of the spaces. If you are after a space for a single exhibition, for a few hours a day or for a series of classes or workshops we would encourage you to look into other options as we don’t have the resources to administer this kind of usage.
It is ready – Taking on a shopfront or opening an office or studio can be a major commitment. Renew Newcastle is keen to support people who are ready to take that step up but it can be a major commitment if you aren’t prepared for it. Ideal projects are ones where it is the logical next step based on what you’ve already been doing, and not a leap into the unknown.
It has the support of the property owner – Renew Newcastle doesn’t own or control any properties. For a project to happen it needs someone with a suitable property to get behind it. If we don’t have a space that fits it we can’t make it happen.
How does Renew Newcastle select projects?
When we receive applications, Renew Newcastle weighs them up against a variety of factors. We compare them to other applications we have received and to properties that might be available. No matter how good a project is – if we don’t have a suitable property we are not in any position to do anything about it.
Renew Newcastle prioritises projects based on how ready they are to proceed and how difficult they would be to achieve with the resources available. We also try hard to make the best use of any given area (so that projects near each other are complimentary and not incompatible) and look for projects that will make the best use of the available spaces.
Renew Newcastle makes short lists of potential projects and works with the property owners — who ultimately make the final decision about what they are willing to make their properties available for — to make the final selections.
After receiving your written submission, if we think your project could be suitable for a space we have available we will meet with you and assess the project more detail. If the project needs more thought and development we can sometimes provide advice and assistance depending on the circumstances.
How long does Renew Newcastle have properties for?
Renew Newcastle's default license agreement is based on accessing the property on a rolling 30 day basis. That means that Property Owners can give 30 days notice at any time should they receive a commercial offer or need to proceed with development. This enables the property owner to provide the property without sacrificing the potential commercial returns and is one of the key reasons why properties are made available so cheaply.
As the initiative is based on temporary use it is inevitable that projects will be given notice to vacate – this has happened to many projects so far. When that happens Renew Newcastle will work with projects to find new sites but this can not be guaranteed – it depends if we have a suitable empty space available at the time. There may be instances of fixed term licenses in the future but projects are advised to plan on the basis of a rolling 30 day period of use.
Can you help me access a specific building?
In most cases, no.
Renew Newcastle matches willing property owners with great projects. At this stage we do not have the resources to chase specific buildings for specific projects. We do hope to have some ability to do this further down the track so it doesn’t hurt to make us aware of ideas that you might have. However we are most effectively able to match projects with building types: such as a shop front or an office rather than a specific building.
How much do properties cost to use? Is it subsidised?
Renew Newcastle trades lack of security in a property for lack of rent. The amount payable to use a space is considerably less than going commercial rates – most of our projects are only paying a $25 per week Participation Fee.
In each case the cost depends on what we can negotiate with each property owner and how much each project can afford. Renew Newcastle itself collects only a maintenance fee (so we can keep properties clean and in good order) rather than a commercial rent.
However all Renew Newcastle agreements have reviews built into them. If you start a commercial business (or you can get more funding for your not-for-profit project) and you eventually end up turning over good money we’d gradually expect you to start paying closer to a commercial rent directly to the property owners when you can afford to. Our aim is to nurture projects that eventually don’t need our support.
What if I already have a business, can I move it to a cheap space?
If you already rent a property in the CBD, no. Projects that involve relocating from an existing commercial space in the Newcastle CBD to a subsidised one are ineligible. It is very important for Renew Newcastle that we don’t undermine existing businesses and existing commercial tenancies in the Newcastle CBD. We are prioritising new projects and initiatives that do not directly compete with the viable businesses in the Newcastle CBD – we don’t want to make things worse!
Our priority is to encourage original creative projects and community initiatives. For example, if you wanted to open a fashion retail store then we and the property owners would need to be convinced that your shop won’t take business away from other retailers. In most cases original works or products – things which you have made yourself – don’t compete with these existing retailers. So, if you make original clothes, or bags, or jewellery and you have no retail presence then we would strongly encourage you to apply – you’re exactly who we are looking for.
If you are an artist or craftsperson who is currently working from home or running a creative enterprise outside the Newcastle CBD then we’d love to lure you to town!
Can I propose a single exhibition or do I need to take over a shop for a while?
Renew Newcastle is keen to hear from people with short, medium and long term plans for empty property in the Newcastle CBD. A short term use could be a single exhibition that may take only a few days or weeks. A medium term use could be for a month up to a year and a long term use could be ongoing or indefinite.
However, Renew Newcastle is looking to prioritise matching projects with available spaces, wherever possible we would like to encourage medium and long term uses. Ideally we’d like to do it in a way that is a simple for us and for you as possible. Medium & longer term uses are much easier for us to facilitate, and it contributes to the ongoing life of the city.
For example it is much easier for us to make a building available to a group or individual that wants to run a gallery and have the gallery organise a series of exhibitions than it is for us to find space for many single exhibitions managed by different people. In that case, we could also pass on exhibition proposals to those who are running a gallery.
We do expect that we may have access to a range of properties that are only available on a short term basis or for which there are no long term uses. In these cases, we would be happy to try and arrange temporary access for appropriate projects.
Can i use a Renew Newcastle property to start a commercial business?
Yes, providing it’s a creative or cultural enterprise of some kind (we take a pretty open view of what that means, so try us if you have an idea). We don’t mind if you try and make a going business out of your Renew Newcastle project – we actually encourage it. Renew Newcastle is trying to stimulate things that will go on and be viable businesses and become viable tenants that bring life back to the city.
The only key criteria on this is that the business can’t be directly competing with existing businesses in the Newcastle CBD. We don’t want to be undermining other people who are already doing it tough.
Can I live in a Renew Newcastle property?
No – or almost certainly no.
Unless the building has all the relevant council permissions and approvals for residential use we are unable to let anyone live in them. In most cases buildings that are suitable for residential use are being lived in already and aren’t the ones we’re targeting.
I’m from out of town, how easy would it be to do something in Newcastle?
Renew Newcastle has a goal not only of nurturing the best projects in Newcastle but also of luring the best projects to Newcastle.
Newcastle it is Australia’s second oldest and 7th largest city. It’s is a larger city than Canberra, Darwin or Hobart. It is at the mouth of the Hunter River (of Hunter Valley wines fame – the vineyards are half an hour away) and about 150km North of Sydney. The population of the Hunter region is about half a million people so there is a large local community to support creative projects.
Newcastle has long had a vibrant, progressive creative community, a high quality of life and a low cost of living. It is also close enough to larger cities that it can be a great place to base yourself even if much of your work is elsewhere. Newcastle is less than two hours drive from Sydney and both Virginblue and Jetstar offer several regular direct flights to Melbourne and Brisbane every day. Newcastle-Melbourne and Newcastle-Brisbane is one of the most competitive discount air routes in Australia and flights can often be found for as little as $50 each way if you book early.
If that hasn’t sold you on relocation: most of the properties that are being activated by Renew Newcastle are less than ten minutes walk from the beach. We’ll probably forgive you if you close up for an hour at lunchtime to go surfing or swimming.
If you are thinking about relocating, it is tricky for us to be able to guarantee a space and then wait for any length of time for you to relocate, so do have that in mind – you will need to be quick! But Renew Newcastle spaces are definitely open to people from out of town, and we will try to assist where we can!
I’m interested in starting my own Renew-style initative in my own town – tell me how to get started!
We recieve regular enquiries about how people can set up similar initiatives in their own city or town and we are always keen to give advice and share our experience where we can. See the Copy the Model page as a starting point.
Why isn’t the answer to my question here?
Probably because no one has asked us yet! Try the Contact Us section and ask us!