Rail line spurs Newcastle CBD exodus

Businesses are packing up and moving out of Newcastle’s CBD as the controversial inner-city rail line continues to act as the great divide, according to a new report.

Newcastle company Suters Architects released the report outlining the demise of the Hunter Street side of the rail line compared with the development boom on the harbour side.

The report includes illustrations and plans showing the city as it is and options for a rail-free CBD.

Businesses continue to close on the southern side of the divide with KH Financial Group moving to Charlestown as Summit Financial Advisors after 18 years in the CBD.

Owners of The Room closed the clothing business and sold the building because they could no longer wait for the city to become vibrant again.

‘‘We invested in the freehold about six years ago with a hope of the city becoming revitalised,’’ Julie Hingst from The Room said.

‘‘We’ve been waiting that long for something to happen and we just couldn’t wait any longer because we weren’t getting any return on the freehold.’’

The ANZ Bank on the corner of Bolton and Hunter streets closed in April this year saying it would be consolidating all services formerly provided at the sub-branch with its Newcastle West parent branch.

Surfhouse Photography closed its doors in Hunter Street earlier this year and owner Alex Thompson is operating the business online.

Men’s and women’s clothing brand Max Power moved out of the mall this year and sports clothing outlet Fila is understood to be heading in the same direction.

‘‘Despite the [global financial crisis] and an emasculated property market, development continues to occur in the Honeysuckle precinct while the Hunter Street strip continues to languish,’’ David Rose from Suters Architects said.

‘‘This represents a serious illness for the City of Newcastle. While most accept the city needs to be revitalised there is no clear agreement between the three tiers of government, business and the community how this can be achieved.

‘‘The NSW Long Term Transport Master Plan is currently under way and a regional forum was held in Newcastle in early April.

‘‘There have now been more than 40 studies into the potential for transport in and around Newcastle done in the past few years and still no action has been taken.’’

The report by Mr Rose and Michael McPherson, also from Suters, acknowledged the proposed law courts at the civic precinct and the University of Newcastle city campus would help revive the CBD.

But it concluded most of the investment, or proposed investment, in the city centre was from private enterprise and was not being matched by public funding.

‘‘Planning mechanisms have so far promised much and delivered little,’’ Mr Rose said. ‘‘The Newcastle 2030 Community Strategic Plan aims to provide a tangible and achievable strategic plan for the city.

‘‘The Newcastle Urban Renewal [state environmental planning policy] promises to provide a planning mechanism to revitalise development of urban sites.

‘‘A draft city-wide [local environmental plan] plans to consolidate planning controls and streamline the interpretation of planning controls.

‘‘This is all great but there is no promise of a CBD master plan or even an inner-city model to provide a planning overview for Newcastle.’’

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