Retailers in the CBD say growing competition from suburban shopping centres means Perth needs a point of difference to attract shoppers. (ABC NewS: Emily Piesse)
Daniel Grigg knows retail in the Perth CBD inside out.
He owns two fashion outlets in Plaza Arcade and one in Piccadilly Arcade, along with six stores outside the city centre.
But the 40-year-old is worried about growing competition from suburban shopping centres, which are undergoing a once-in-a-generation construction boom.
“If the city hasn’t got a point of difference, well then why would people come into the city, pay up to $12 an hour for parking [compared] to a shopping centre in the suburbs that’s got free parking?” Mr Grigg said.
He said a major renovation underway in Plaza Arcade, which has rerouted foot traffic, has had an impact on business.
Retailer Daniel Grigg says the City of Perth needs to find ways to make it cheaper for families to visit the city. (ABC News: Emily Piesse)
But he believed there was a wider problem in attracting people to the CBD, particularly on weekends.
“If you want to drive long-term foot traffic in the city, you make it more affordable to park here and to come here,” he said.
“Free transportation on the weekends could be one of those things.”
Along with free one-hour parking and train fares, Mr Grigg said more creative projects were needed.
“Cheaper, pop-up style places for artists and you know, interesting things that go on that don’t necessarily create revenue.”
Historic Heart project promises street art
In the CBD’s east end, creative shoots are emerging through Historic Heart of Perth Inc, a not-for-profit group that hopes to revitalise the area from Barrack Street to the Perth Mint.
Historic Heart project manager Sandy Anghie believes new street art in the CBD’s east end will act as a catalyst for development. (ABC News: Emily Piesse)
The group has raised $500,000, half provided by the State Government, to be used for street art.
Ten artists have been recruited to paint six laneway walls, with up to 100 planter boxes to be painted and installed in public spaces and alfresco dining areas.
Project manager Sandy Anghie said she hoped the art would catalyse further development of heritage-listed buildings in the east end.
“You see the massive investment in suburban shopping centres and the point of difference we have in the city is the history and the culture,” Ms Anghie said.
“You can’t replicate the character and charm of the heritage-listed buildings and historic precincts and so we’re leveraging off that.
“Lots of people don’t cross Barrack Street at the moment to the east end, but you know if we’re putting artwork and landscaping in, perhaps we’re giving them a reason to cross the street and explore this area that’s been forgotten.”
Earlier this month, the City of Perth amended its heritage policy to reduce council rates for building owners who repair or upgrade their properties.
Eleven sites have been identified in the malls for refurbishment.
Indigenous culture ‘could be a drawcard’
Other CBD business owners say the city’s cultural side needs to be nurtured.
Ryan Zaknich is the founder of Two Feet & a Heartbeat, which provides walking tours in Perth and Fremantle.
Two Feet & a Heartbeat co-founder Ryan Zaknich says more creative arts and Indigenous tourism would help attract visitors to the city. (ABC News: Emily Piesse)
He said the growing success of the Fringe World Festival showed Perth had a vibrant arts scene, which could be leveraged further.
“I think the creative arts industry is a large opportunity,” Mr Zaknich said.
“Private enterprise revolving around that would get people in the city, I believe.”
Retailers in Plaza Arcade say the City of Perth should provide free or cheap parking to attract more people to the city. (ABC News : Emily Piesse)
Mr Zaknich, who is also a director of cultural group Museum of Perth, says Indigenous tourism could also be a drawcard for the city.
“Whether that’s an Indigenous cultural centre, tours, whatever the medium may be, there is a strong desire for people who are visiting Perth to have those interactions,” he said.
But in the short term, he said he believed any strategy needs to focus on shoppers’ hip pockets.
“The real way to compete against the metropolitan shopping centres will always come down to the cost of parking,” he said.
“You can drive up to the front of a shopping centre and park all day, no questions asked, as opposed to parking where you have to pay.”