Street Smart: An artist impression of Cooper Street’s future look and feel, as part of a Cessnock town centre upgrade. Picture: Cessnock CBD Masterplan.Cessnock’s central business district was experiencing a renaissance, bucking the trend of other main-street areas in decay, mayor Bob Pynsent said.
“This is going against the trend because our main street is growing, where most main streets are struggling,” Cr Pynsent said.
Cr Pynsent said a revitalisation had occurred in the two years since the Hunter Expressway opened, with about 10 vacant shops being filled.
“One or two might have fallen over, but the others have sustained and that’s positive,” he said.
“We still have vacant shops, but not as many as we had before the expressway opened.”
He said the expressway had “taken about 90 per cent of the heavy vehicles off Vincent Street”.
“A number of those new businesses are cafes,” he said.
“It’s far more attractive to sit on the footpath and have coffee.”
Cessnock City Council recently received a $950,000 federal grant, which will be used to redevelop the CBD in four stages over four years.
The work will include upgrades to laneways, the streetscape and park and playground areas.
It aims to improve access for pedestrians, cyclists and traffic.
The project funding includes street art, which will adjoin a laneway art project.
Stage one works will begin in 2016-17, with all four stages to be complete by 2019-20.
Cr Pynsent said the work would make the town more attractive and functional.
It follows the council spending more than $100,000 to improve garden beds, replace street trees and clean and seal pavers in the CBD.
Changes in the town’s economy were understood to be partly related to people losing jobs in the traditional mining and manufacturing industries.
Some of these people had sought to invest in the service and retail sectors.
Cessnock councillor Bryce Gibson agreed that the town was undergoing a renaissance.
Cr Gibson, who owns and leases real estate in the town,supported the work which was occurring as part of the council-approved Cessnock CBD masterplan.
But he said bigger changes lay ahead in other stages of the plan.
“The big windfall for the CBD will be when we get increased parking spots, more accessible parking and better traffic flows, in particular in peak periods,” he said.
“That’s the holy grail.”
As for the economy, he said “there has been new businesses come to town, new businesses go and businesses change hands”.
“I don’t see that as any different to what it’s always been,” he said.
“There’s always going to be fluctuations in the real estate market.”
Mayor Bob Pynsent