OPINION: Popular night markets enliven inner city

Scenes from the first Newcastle Night Markets. Scenes from the first Newcastle Night Markets.
杭州楼凤

Scenes from the first Newcastle Night Markets.

Scenes from the first Newcastle Night Markets.

Scenes from the first Newcastle Night Markets.

Scenes from the first Newcastle Night Markets.

Scenes from the first Newcastle Night Markets.

ON Valentine’s Day, Newcastle saw the return of night markets in Hunter Street Mall and a large crowd turned up to stroll the laneways, sample the eclectic food offerings, and browse the market stalls.

The night markets, supported by Newcastle City Council and Newcastle Now, are intended to add another attraction into the city centre, with its growing restaurant and bar culture. The shops in the mall that stayed open in support of the market enjoyed a great night.

Opening night was intended as a ‘‘soft’’ start – 40 stalls on opening night will grow into 80 stalls as the market grows. With the crowds we saw on opening night, it’s likely that target will be reached sooner than expected. Obviously, the people want this.

The next night market will be tomorrow, February 28.

Night markets in the mall have been attempted before, with some great successes in terms of bringing people back into the city. Unfortunately, these previous attempts have been unable to sustain themselves. Sustainability is therefore the key objective of this new attempt to bring night markets to the city.

This new market will benefit from the operator’s experience gained from the farmers market at Broadmeadow Showground. The farmers markets have been a huge success after a ‘‘soft’’ start. They have gradually grown in size, variety and regularity – from once a month to once a fortnight, now practically weekly.

Rather than introducing the markets with a big and expensive bang (and the danger of becoming a one-hit wonder), a soft opening will ensure that the Hunter Street Mall night markets are sustainable over the longer term.

Local businesses that stayed open during the markets complemented the offerings from the stalls, increasing the ability of the markets to draw in crowds and increasing the range of products on offer.

Hopefully, local businesses will see this in action, and see the value in putting further support behind the markets.

In this soft opening phase, the markets will be open between 6pm and 10pm on the second and fourth Friday nights of each month. Starting between Wolfe and Newcomen streets, the project will see the markets eventually expand down the mall in stages. The ultimate goal is expansion all the way down the mall to the old David Jones building, now The Emporium (a project of Renew Newcastle).

Newcastle city centre is going through a period of positive change. Programs such as the Facade Improvement Scheme are improving the built environment. Occupancy rates for ground floor shops are on the rise, providing further evidence that customers are returning. The city feels alive with the buzz of people moving about for work or play, day and night.

The night markets returning is another great asset for our city, and they fit perfectly with the relaxed and eclectic feel of the mall.

They’re well worth your support.

Edward Duc is chairman of Newcastle Now.

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