Café owners in Darby Street are optimistic City of Newcastle’s (CN) latest initiative will attract locals and visitors alike to the precinct.
Council’s six-month trial, with extended outdoor dining facilities, community-focused events and improved pedestrian and cycling infrastructure under the Streets as Shared Spaces program, was officially launched by Deputy Lord Mayor Declan Clausen this week.
The probationary period is also expected to calm traffic and bring diners out onto the Cooks Hill thoroughfare for the benefit of business operators.
Three Monkeys co-owner Anthony Strachan said he was hopeful the trial would help showcase all that Darby Street had to offer.
“The past couple of years have been extremely challenging for all small businesses,” he explained.
“We are already seeing people come back into the city.
“So, we’re anticipating this [scheme] will lead to more excitement and an enhanced Darby Street experience.”
A large 120-square metre temporary dining platform, built using recycled materials, has been placed over several car parks between the Sanctum and Goldbergs restaurants.
It will allow businesses to more than double their outdoor space, while freeing up the footpath for pedestrians, providing an immediate boost to local cafes and restaurants.
Further along Darby Street, a new pedestrian crossing safely leads visitors to the re-energised Darby Headphones Courtyard.
New street furniture, lighting, surfacing and public art in the courtyard should encourage them to visit, stay and connect, too.
Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said the Darby Street trial was part of the Streets as Shared Spaces initiative and aimed to test and build innovative ideas that attracted people back into public spaces, in a safer way.
“Novocastrians are changing the way they explore and connect,” she stated.
“Residents are walking and cycling more – and this means that we need to have a larger focus on providing spaces that are safe, green, welcoming and accessible.”
Deputy Lord Mayor Declan Clausen said the temporary nature of the works allowed the CN to trial these pilot projects with the support and feedback from the community and local businesses.
“By implementing it, we hope to gain valuable insights that will allow us to plan for long-term positive change across the city’s Local Centres Renewal Program, which delivers attractive, vibrant, and healthy open spaces,” he added.
A condition of the NSW Government grant required Darby Street’s speed to be reduced.
Transport for NSW has approved a temporary 30km/hr speed reduction for approximately 400 metres of Darby Street, between the Newcastle Art Gallery and 188 Darby Street.
And, to assist with availability of short-term free parking in the area, temporary drop off and pick up zones will be installed near Council Street and car parking spaces to the rear of the Newcastle Library will be converted to 2P free spaces for the duration of the trial, offsetting carparks impacted by the temporary dining platform.
The trial will also celebrate Darby Street’s link to culture, art, music and food through a series of events including temporary pavement murals and a pavement art competition by Chalk the Walk – as part of the New Annual Festival – and a free day of activities at the Street Party, on the corner of Council Street, on Saturday 15 October.
More details on the Darby Street Streets as Shared Spaces trial events can be found at whatson.newcastle.nsw.gov.au