Cash to fill shops

• One of the newest businesses to move into a “Fill This Space” space is Peddle Perth, which runs rickshaw taxis around the city. The company has 14 employees and is setting up in a tenancy in Forrest Chase. PP director Zac Duggan, here giving a ride to John Carey and Di Bain while employee Courtney Lopez Edser looks on, says the tenancy is an opportunity to “build a community”. Apart from peddling people around and selling clothes and gifts, he says they’ll “be creating a space for coworking for entrepreneurs and employees in problem-solving industries. I’m super excited that we could get into such a central and well laid out space.”

WITH a plague of vacant store fronts dotting the CBD like missing teeth, the McGowan government has poured $200,000 into Activate Perth.

Empty shops can have a death spiral effect for other businesses that are just hanging in, according to Perth MP John Carey, who says the WA government nabbed an idea from Renew Adelaide to fix it.

“What we do know is this; the more vacant shops you have in a street the less it becomes a destination,” Mr Carey said.

“The opposite is true as well; if you encourage new independent small businesses and startups to trial a shopfront, then it’s a great way to activate a street, to create more foot traffic, and create more vibrancy and interest.”

Activate Perth, a not-for-profit set up to revive the city, has been running the Fill This Space project for about 15 months. Its first project was moving young Aboriginal artist Peter Farmer Jr into a studio at an empty shop in Watertown.

It’s a rent-free set up and involves a bit of negotiating to convince landlords it’s worth it to have their buildings occupied and looked after. Activate Perth provides mentoring for new businesses.

AP’s chair Di Bain says they’re thrilled to get the recognition after operating for 18 months “ on the smell of an oily rag”.

The department of premier and cabinet’s funding also unlocks a second $50,000 grant from Perth council.

Ms Bain said the money might help them identify a larger cluster of empty shops where they can make a real difference.

“We’ll be able to helicopter in a whole lot of vibrancy at once, lots of different business in a few spaces all together,” she said.

“That could be a big turnaround project for a run down area.”

There’s a few potential spaces they’re negotiating over at the moment, with one that’s made the maybe-list being the Plaza Arcade which has been troubled by construction woes and vacancies in recent years.

AP is open for new FTS ideas at activateperth.com.au/renew

by DAVID BELL

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