Plan for vacant shops

The Waitaki District Council has come up with a scheme to try to fill empty shops in Oamaru.

The council said in a release yesterday it is set to launch the Revitalise Our Places Ōamaru (Ropo), a brokerage programme that aims to turn empty shops from vacant into vibrant.

The statement said the programme represented a significant milestone in the Oamaru CBD revitalisation plan to add vibrancy back to the main street.

The town centre had fallen victim to retail troubles in recent times and there were many vacant spaces and closed businesses along Thames St.

In response to the community’s concerns, a six-month pilot brokerage project had been designed to fill spaces for 30 day periods between commercial tenancies.

The programme would showcase or "stage" these empty spaces to highlight the opportunities within them to support attraction of new long-term tenants.

It was designed to not compete with the existing businesses, only to add to the CBD’s experience by supporting the local creative community to showcase their artistry and talent.

Ropo programme co-ordinator Beth Strickland said the programme was designed to encourage innovative ideas.

"This is also an opportunity to commercially stage these spaces, much like you would if you were staging a home to sell, to highlight the opportunity to budding entrepreneurs or business start-ups."

The broker programme matches vacant spaces with property owners and eligible projects.

A pop-up launch event was planned at which the community could engage with creatives and start-up businesses.

"Since the beginning of May, Ropo has called for expressions of interest from creative, community groups or start-up businesses which include cultural, social, creative or economic needs in the community.

"The positive feedback from the community to date has been astounding. We are unearthing not just creative projects but business start-ups as well," council placemaking lead Cyndi Christensen said.

"These projects will bring these spaces to life along Thames St for the month of June."