Some towns these days struggle to present a vibrant face to the world. As manufacturing departed and retail went online, the shopfronts darkened. In some locations streets became ghost towns - bricks and mortar that once heaved with people emptied as spending and living patterns changed.
That emptiness is growing. Businesses continue to move from the heart of cities and towns to cheaper locations in the suburbs, or to malls with heavy foot traffic. In many cases they shut entirely and the buildings stay barren.
Whether that is seen a decay, or opportunity, is in the eye of the beholder. This is where Castlemaine’s Kerry Anderson comes in. She has been granted a $10,000 scholarship to look at the steps towns in central Victoria are taking to transform themselves.
Read more: Businesses breathing life into towns
There are examples aplenty of empty spaces rising from the ruins of decline – mills turned into apartments, old train stations turned into museums, heritage buildings becoming galleries. Some towns, left with empty streets where offices once thrived, have actively encouraged a cafe culture by easing the way for permits to be approved. Others, such as Castlemaine, have capitalised on the influx of new residents with new interests to become a mecca for arts and antiquing weekenders. Maldon is a snapshot of a time gone by, as in Echuca’s port area - great drawcards for local day trips and overnighters.
In Bendigo there has been much talk about the Hargreaves Mall and its future. Most people seem to agree that a bold regeneration project is needed to bring people back into the CBD.
There have already been pockets of success - in the funky shops and eateries around the art gallery and Chancery Lane. But we now go out closer to where we live and community hubs – such as the Axedale pub – are increasingly popular, with friends made there at hand to keep us coming back.
Yes, there are great coffee shops and eateries dotted around Greater Bendigo but more needs to be done to connect them. Perhaps whatever Ms Anderson learns can be applied to that in the future.
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