CLOSING DOWN and For Lease signs dress six shopfront windows in Centerpoint Arcade in Taree.
The signs and bare retail space in the iconic arcade tell of the tough retail environment that currently exists in the Manning Valley.
It is evidence of hardship but in the wake of closures, in the flux of change, landlord Maurie Stack and the arcade retailers are keen to learn how to develop their businesses to ensure longevity and how to create an environment that will foster community.
Renowned place maker David Engwicht is to be the catalyst for this new chapter in the arcade's history and next week he will be in Taree to meet with the tenants to discuss the rejuvenation of the arcade as part of a broader community campaign to change the central business district.
It will be Mr Engwicht's second visit to Taree and his return to our town stems from the decision of Centerpoint Arcade tenants to lobby Mr Stack to bring him back to the Manning Valley.
"I know a little bit about the law, but when it comes to operating arcades, then people like David are useful advisers for retail and community development," Mr Stack said.
"We wanted to do something in the arcade and he obviously fired people up ... and we all agreed that he would be a great guy because you can get an architect and you will just get a report on the building, whereas David is more than that, he can suggest physical changes but also ways to make the space more interesting and a fun place for people to come."
Mr Stack said he was not concerned about the number of empty shops in the arcade and cited the fact that its vacancy rate had been up and down over the last 15 to 20 years.
"Every retailer in the last few years has found things a bit tough and the retail industry in general has taken a hit with people purchasing stuff online. It forces retailers and owners of shopping centres to rethink things, to try to find ways to make things more attractive and new ways to bring people to their stores."
Mr Stack is keen for all current and prospective small business owners to attend the breakfast meeting with Mr Engwicht. The event is not just for current Centerpoint Arcade tenants, it's an "open invitation to all prospective retail tenants who would like to listen to David's thoughts, concepts and visions for the arcade."
Mr Stack wants to facilitate change in Taree and believes that "in the long haul Taree has got enormous potential."
"It's just a beautiful area and the river is an undiscovered beauty," Mr Stack said.
"Increasingly the traffic links mean that we are getting closer and closer to Sydney. The travelling time from Sydney to Taree would have to be pretty close to what it was when people started travelling to the Central Coast. It would have taken just as long in the old days to travel to the Central Coast then as it does now to travel to Taree.
"Suddenly this part of the world has the potential to be a weekend destination and I think if Taree is promoted as the gateway to the Manning Valley then it has a very bright future," Mr Stack explained.
"We are towards the sun of the biggest population in Australia and Mal Shultz's father once said to me, 'If you drive on the Pacific Highway from Sydney to Brisbane, look to the right boy, it's all gold, it's all gold.' I absolutely agree - it is a narrow strip of land within the continent of Australia where the most potential exists. It's only a timing thing and so that is why I believe the outlook for arcades like this, and retail in general for Taree, is very good."
Mr Engwicht will return to Taree on June 16 for four days. The breakfast meeting at Centerpoint Arcade will be at 7.30am on Tuesday, June 17. To attend RSVP to Shultz Commercial on 6551 3552.