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Opportunity knocks at vacant city shops

Local

The increased number of vacant CBD shopfronts as a result of the COVID-19 downturn on top of an already slowing economy is presenting an opportunity for Renew Adelaide to help more startups into new digs.

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But while increasing its output is on the not-for-profit’s agenda as a way to revamp a lagging city economy, it will have to do it without any significant additional funding.

Renew Adelaide CEO Tim Boundy told InDaily the organisation would need to work “smarter with the resources we have” in order to help bring more fledgling city-based businesses to life.

Funded by the Adelaide City Council, Renew Adelaide helps startups move into shopfronts by providing short-term, rent-free leases in vacant properties.

The program also helps property owners improve buildings, making them more attractive to future, paying, tenants.

In May, InDaily reported the council was considering asking Renew Adelaide to focus its efforts on reducing vacancies in the city in a bid to help lure more people back to the CBD.

Boundy said Renew Adelaide had since been in discussions with the council and property partners to find innovative ways to increase and activate new types of spaces.

“The opportunity is out there … the available property stock shows that there is an opportunity for us to expand into more properties and give more people the opportunity to try more business ideas,” he said.

“Especially at the current time when people have more time on their hands and may be facing unemployment and see it as an opportunity to start their own business as well.”

The organisation was co-funded by the council and the State Government until $300,000 of state funding was axed last year.

The council has set aside $225,000 in its draft budget for Renew Adelaide in the 2020/21 financial year, a $5000 increase in line with CPI on last year’s figure.

The council is expected to finalise it 2020/21 budget on  August 10.

“The City of Adelaide is a funding partner of Renew Adelaide and has invested in its activities over many years to fill vacant spaces in the CBD,” Lord Mayor Sandy Verschoor said.

“Our support has assisted Renew Adelaide to meet its objectives including 16 new ventures launched and 33 jobs created.

“We provide further support through our relationships with city property owners and their respective property managers and, where appropriate, we connect them to Renew Adelaide as an option.”

The push to increase business to the city follows a difficult 12 months for traders.

Boundy said prior to the pandemic, bricks-and-mortar retail stores had faced an economic downturn, which was further exacerbated by the COVID-19 induced shutdown.

In February, InDaily reported the state’s December retail trade had been hard hit, with sales dropping by 1.3 per cent.

The slump coincided with a slew of major chain stores – including Harris Scarfe, Jeans West and Bardot – pushed into voluntary administration, collapse or partial shutdown.

“Renew exists because there is a challenge there and we respond to that challenge,” Boundy said.

“What we do is provide opportunities but also really support and celebrate people who try something new, especially at this time.”

He said the not-for-profit would focus on sourcing spaces that required minimal investment.

According the organisation’s website, Renew Adelaide “has funds to invest in upgrading spaces” but “how much is spent and what it is spent on depends on various things.”

“Its priority investment is partnering with the tenant to invest in works that stay with the property such as cosmetic and base build upgrades,” the website said.

Boundy said in the financial year to June 30 the organisation had launched 15 new ventures in vacant city properties and intended “to do the same if not more in the coming financial year”.

Renew Adelaide has seven available spaces for interested startups on its website.

Boundy said there were no plans to expand the initiative beyond the CBD.

“We previously worked in Port Adelaide and had good connection with the community there,” he said.

“So we’re open to opportunities of expansion, but it would have to be a really thoughtful and well laid out plan to make sure we’re connecting with the right property people and entrepreneurs in those particular communities who want to bring their ideas to life.”

Boundy said the organisation was in talks with the State Government about future funding.

A spokesperson for the State Government said it had “delivered a comprehensive $1 billion economic response package and stimulus measures to support the CBD economy and the broader state economy”.

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