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Darby Street trial creates record trade boom

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Darby Street business owners have praised City of Newcastle (CN) for bringing people back into the precinct.

Council launched a trial late last year to extend outdoor dining options and improve pedestrian and cyclist safety along the popular thoroughfare to boost visitation and local trade.

And, together with an extensive PR campaign from Newcastle Weekly, the move has paid major dividends.

Economic data from October to December 2022 shows that Darby Street achieved its highest ever trading revenue levels, which occurred during the first three months of CN’s six-month pilot of streetscape improvements under the NSW Government’s Streets as Shared Spaces initiative.

Deputy Lord Mayor Declan Clausen with Darby Street Three Monkeys Café owner Ant Strachan.

Three Monkeys Café co-owner Anthony Strachan admitted the trial had been a positive step forward.

“For us, the dining deck has been a fantastic success,” he said.

“It’s one of the first places people want to sit when they come in.

“I think the trial has been great to bring in more tourists and create a more pedestrian-friendly space.

“However, I’d like to see some of this work continued along the rest of the street, to create a longer-term beautification of the precinct.”

Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said economic data showed a 17% increase in sales revenue along Darby Street during the trial period compared to the previous three months (July to September 2022).

“This was 5.2% higher than the average sales revenue growth experienced anywhere else in Newcastle,” she explained.

“Even accounting for the normal December trading spike, Darby Street has fared well during this period, with sales levels also up 9.2% compared to the same period last year.

“What was really pleasing to see was 47% of the total sales over Christmas were attributed to customers who don’t live in Newcastle.”

Pedestrian and cyclist traffic also reported an increase to the area, on average up 18% and 13% respectively.

CN recently wrapped up two days of consultation with businesses along Darby Street, as they near the end of the trial, with an upbeat sentiment.

“To date, our online survey has been completed by 280 people, with 67% in favour of keeping the trial infrastructure, which includes the wooden dining deck, traffic calming and the pedestrian crossing adjacent to the headphones courtyard,” Deputy Lord Mayor Declan Clausen said.

“During the trial we also heard that parking on Darby Street was a concern to businesses.

“We responded by converting more than 30 all-day paid parking spaces into free two-hour parking.

“So, we’re now looking at further innovative approaches to assist with the ongoing monitoring of parking in the area. 

“The trial forms a first step toward a possible upgrade to Darby Street.

“We will also apply what we’ve learned from the trial to commercial areas across Newcastle LGA as part of our popular Local Centre Upgrade program.”

The outcomes of the Darby Street trial, including the results of community consultation and data analysis, will be presented to councillors for the potential retention of infrastructure installed.

Residents’ engagement on the trial is open until 28 February.

To submit an online feedback form, visit www.newcastle.nsw.gov.au/Have-Your-Say/Darby-SaSS.

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