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More than 100 people crammed into the Old Church on the Hill on Thursday night to discuss ways to breathe new life into the city.
From Chancery Lane to the Moonlight Market, they came to discuss ideas ways to encourage people to use public spaces.
The City of Greater Bendigo partnered with the grassroots Places for Change initiative to put on the event, but key-note speaker at the talk, Marcus Westbury, was blunt about his initial relationship with the City of Newcastle.
“To be honest, our strategy at the beginning in dealing with council was just to go around them,” he said.
“We’d identify everything we could do without their approval and that would be our focus.”
His words carried weight for those looking at new strategies to revatilise Bendigo. Mr Westbury’s made his name partly through his involvement in the Renew Newcastle campaign, which was largely credited with turning the decaying industrial port city into a creative hub.
But Mr Westbury – also host of the TV show on the rise of the handmade, locally produced and artisanal, Bespoke – said the Renew team learned to work with council to get things done.
“We invented an ingenuous play game of saying, ‘could we do this without a DA (development approval)?… what about this then? Or this?”
The city’s Activity Centres place manager Phil DeAraugo, who shared the stage with Mr Westbury, was singing from the same hymn book.
“The city can’t do this alone… and we shouldn’t have to,” he said.
“This has to be driven by the private and community sectors.”
Mr DeAraugo said much of that work was already being done. He pointed to Vibrant Bendigo, a small group of business owners looking to get more people into the CBD and staying for longer.
It was a theme which year-10 students form Catholic College Bendigo studied this year, and a group of students took to the stage to prevent their findings on bringing more people into Hargreaves Mall.
Among their ideas were to increase security, encourage more high end stores, have more versatile shading, bring more colour into the mall design, boost promotion of the mall and hold more special events.
“The mall has so much potential that is not being fully utilised right now,” Tia Needs said.
“But with the right events it could be overwhelmed with people.”