Landlords can be stereotyped as much as artists, and it’s wrong to think of them all as rapacious and greedy, says Colliers International senior executive Charles Kennedy.
Mr Kennedy and Colliers have been involved as the real estate liaison for the Ballarat Evolve program, which was launched last night.
The program brings together artists in need of creative space with landlords who have commercial rental spaces available in a licensing agreement, and is based on the Renew Australia model which successfully helped to rejuvenate Newcastle in NSW.
He says part of his job is to bring a dose of commercial reality to the initiative, and that for landlords who get involved, the major benefit will be exposure.
“It’s one of the major attributes of the program, bringing exposure to a property that’s sitting vacant,” says Mr Kennedy.
There’s potential for a long-term tenant if the artist is commercially successful, Mr Kennedy says, but just bringing people to a shop or building that is open rather than closed or boarded up is a preferable outcome.
He says the evolution in retail is causing businesses to struggle with models for success, and closures are leaving landlords with serious problems.
“What we are seeing in the (Ballarat) CBD is a change from pure retail to what we call a ‘service’ type of business,” he says.
This is an area here (the Bridge Mall) that’s crying out for revitalisation. It would work out really well as an area to host (the artists). We’ll talk to landlords in the course of the next few weeks to see if we can get some of them participating here. It we can bring a level of interest to this area, it’s a captive market to a degree.Charles Kennedy
“That could be a travel agent, a beautician, a hair stylist. Food is also another major provider. That type of industry is transitioning into these pure retail areas. So the artists could avail themselves of those services, as well as their own.”
The large number of ‘for lease’ signs in Ballarat can be a little misleading, Mr Kennedy says, as the sign advertising the vacancy will often stay up while negotiations with a future tenant are conducted.
“If you calculate the vacancy rate just on the number of signs you see… it probably doesn’t tell you the whole picture,” Mr Kennedy says.
The 30-day rolling licence agreement between landlords and artists proposed by Ballarat Evolve is a key to providing the flexibility for the success of the program, he argues.
“There’s no certainty in this. It’s going to be a trial period for the next eight months and we’ll see. We’ve already got a couple of landlords lined up.
“This is an area here (the Bridge Mall) that’s crying out for revitalisation. It would work out really well as an area to host (the artists). We’ll talk to landlords in the course of the next few weeks to see if we can get some of them participating here. It we can bring a level of interest to this area, it’s a captive market to a degree.”
Some of the most persistent stereotypes in real estate are those of the rapacious landlord, always wanting more rental return; and the careless absentee landlord, who sits on a property letting it fall into disrepair. While there are people who fit those categories, Charles Kennedy says in reality it’s not usually the case.
“There’s massive stereotyping on both sides,” says Kennedy.
“Artists would love to have free places and can’t understand why they’re not entitled to them; but they wouldn’t give away their paintings or sculptures. They want to be compensated for them – just as landlords do.
“Both sides need to understand the commercial realities: for the landlords, this is their investment; it’s their superannuation for retirement. They have mortgages. It can be a win-win situation, that’s what we’re striving for.”
BALLARAT EVOLVE ANNOUNCED
The renewal program Ballarat Evolve was officially opened on Tuesday March 27, with founder Tara Poole giving a spirited and passionate speech at The Art Gallery of Ballarat during the Ballarat Arts Foundation annual grants calendar launch.
In front of an audience that included the City of Ballarat mayor, other councillors and representatives from Ballarat Regional Tourism, Poole outlined her visions and concerns for the future of Ballarat as a liveable and sustainable city, in a speech that also relied on the use of data derived from a survey of local residents.
The city is changing shape beneath us, says Poole, and unless we address that shift in a positive and brave way, businesses will continue to be drawn out of the CBD.
“If Ballarat is to evolve, then it is Ballarat’s people who will deliver the riches,” says Poole.
“So we have created Ballarat Evolve – to signify the much-needed development, the essential growth, and maturing of our city.
The city is changing shape beneath us – that services are leaving, that retailers who supply daily needs are tempted out by better foot traffic, by the growth in air conditioned malls and ease of shopping for their customers. In their place, the city is slowly inching towards a new future – of tourism, culture, eating out and experiences. But the wind of change is seriously blowing through that gap. The for lease and for sale signs are testament to that.Tara Poole
“The endless rumours of major businesses forsaking the centre of town, my growing unease that the middle of our town, as beautiful as it is, hides an emptiness we shouldn’t ignore.”
Ms Poole said the concept of supporting tiny enterprises into vacant spaces had been operational for a decade in cities like Newcastle, Adelaide and now Geelong.