For more than a century, the fortunes of Hamilton’s main thoroughfare seem to have been in a permanent state of ebb and flow.
Beaumont Street was not much more than a dirt track until 1901, when surrounding mines closed and it began to lift its image.
By the late 1980s, a few cafes and second-hand shops were scattered along the strip, but it was all but deserted on weekends and after hours.
Then the 1989 Newcastle earthquake changed everything, triggering a wave of construction that transformed the road into one of the city’s most fashionable eat-streets.
But while its cafes and pubs remain popular, even Beaumont Street’s own traders have acknowledged it has again slipped into decline. This time, a combination of factors seem to have conspired against it.
The truncation of the railway line at Hamilton has been blamed for a surge in crime and anti-social behaviour, while the state government’s multi-million revitalisation mission has concentrated almost exclusively on the tract of land between Stewart Avenue and the coast.
Hamilton Business Chamber president Nathan Errington has been lobbying for over a year for an investment of public funds into Beaumont Street, describing it as “tired”.
Newcastle City Council appears finally set to respond on Tuesday night, with news it will vote on whether to expedite work on a masterplan for the suburb, focusing on upgrades to Beaumont Street and James Street Plaza. The plaza, which has been a hotspot for anti-social behaviour, would be at the centre of the renewal efforts.
Given the notice of motion proposing the masterplan has been put forward by Labor councillors – who hold the balance of power – it is all but certain to be passed.
While this is a welcome development, it must be followed by a funding commitment to implement the plans. Historically, Beaumont Street has played an important role as the city’s multicultural heartland, drawing comparisons to Newtown in Sydney and Carlton in Melbourne.
Any cosmopolitan city must have layers of diversity to its economy. While the hubs of Darby Street, King Street and Honeysuckle all offer an array of dining choices, Beaumont Street has always possessed its own unique place in the city’s cultural fabric.
While the renewal of the East End is the focus, it is crucial that Hamilton does not fall victim by neglect.