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City council shifts focus to COVID-19 recovery

Local

Adelaide City Council is seeking to offer free or subsidised business support to CBD traders to help boost the economy and lure more people back to the city once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.

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The council is also considering asking not-for-profit organisation Renew Adelaide, which connects vacant property landlords to start-ups looking to test business ideas at low cost, to focus its efforts on reducing vacancies in the CBD.

Meanwhile, north ward councillor Phil Martin is calling on the council to close some roads to traffic at times so that dining can be extended out onto streets.

He also wants the council to extend outdoor dining areas to allow restaurants to practice social distancing once coronavirus restrictions are eased.

At last night’s council committee meeting, growth director Ian Hill said the forced cancellation of events and festivals, and the absence of international students meant a city recovery plan was needed.

“When we come back it’s not going to be – certainly not initially – how we left,” he said.  

“If you look at some of the core drivers for the CBD… international students, which is the largest single export from South Australia, will come back differently.

“You look at our festivals and events… the Fringe, the (Adelaide) Festival, the TDU (Tour Down Under), WOMADelaide, Superloop, international tennis, OzAsia, Christmas Pageant – there are a lot of unknowns from our perspective around what they will look like next year or the next time they run the event, if they run the event at all.  

“Even if football comes back it’s likely to be broadcast rather than necessarily big crowds at Adelaide Oval.” 

Hill said events and festivals normally lured about 4.3 million attendees to the city, injecting $353.4 million into the city’s economy.

Those figures are set to drop this year following the cancelation of the Australian International Three Day equestrian event and the postponing of Tasting Australia.  

The city will also be forced to compete for a share of the local tourism market once travel restrictions are lifted.  

“I think one of the challenges, particularly for the visitor economy in Adelaide, will be that the borders are likely… to have a soft return to interstate travel and probably more longer-term to international travel, so the push will be on South Australians holidaying in South Australia,” Hill said.  

“You will see houseboats on the river, shacks, camping, all those sorts of experiences are likely to be pushed pretty hard, so the CBD offering, which has often been around events and festivals, what does that start to look like?  

“I think we’re going to need to reimagine a little bit about that offering and how we ensure social distancing and opening of cafés, restaurants and how we can maximise the opportunity for businesses to trade.” 

Hill said the council was in “final negotiations” with Business SA to deliver a “whole raft of services” to city businesses either free of charge or subsidised by the council.  

“They range from mental health services through to online distribution, to industrial relations – a whole raft of tailored programs that we’re going to roll out specifically for City of Adelaide businesses,” he said. 

“We’ve also banked some additional engagement with Renew Adelaide… (to determine) whether there’s an enhanced role here for Renew Adelaide around vacancies in the CBD.”

Meanwhile, the council is progressing with the establishment of a new “city-wide business model” tasked with overseeing marketing, investment and business growth across the CBD and North Adelaide, as well as a social media campaign to lure people back “safely” to the city.  

It comes as city businesses prepare to grapple with new retail developments across suburban Adelaide, including Burnside Shopping Centre’s $360 million upgrade and King William Road’s $6 million redevelopment.

“Last night… I certainly heard unequivocally a push from businesses to get on with it and to drive this change,” Hill said.

North ward councillor Phil Martin has lodged a motion for next Tuesday calling on the council to extend outdoor dining areas to ensure restaurants and cafés can accommodate social distancing once restrictions are lifted. 

He also wants the council to close roads such as Rundle and O’Connell Streets to traffic on “one or multiple occasions”, to allow restaurants to extend “socially distanced dining”.

“I think one of the ways to encourage people to consider patronising restaurants and cafés again is to provide them with opportunities to go out in a physically safe, outdoor environment and enjoy once again the hospitality of our traders,” he said.

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