10 ideas for revitalising the Alice Springs CBD


p2351 Robyn Lambley OKIndependent Member for Araluen Robyn Lambley (pictured) is getting the jump on the government with ideas for revitalising the CBD on which the Michael Gunner has promised to spend $20m.
No ideas from the government have been announced so far.
She says the owners and landlords of CBD properties need to be engaged and take some responsibility for the revitalization of the CBD. Without the inclusion of landlords, this whole process will be difficult.
An audit needs to be done on current NT Government and Local Government funding allocated to maintaining the CBD: Could this money be better utilized, more targeted and used more creatively and efficiently? Can things be done differently to improve our CBD by Northern Territory and local Government?
The Government needs to establish an Alice Springs CBD infrastructure fund (equivalent to the former Northern Territory Tourism Infrastructure fund) whereby CBD property owners can apply for funding to improve their shop fronts. Small grants of $5000 to $20,000 to landlords could be offered to spruce up their shop fronts with sign writing, painting, panelling, temporary murals and so on.
No vacant CBD property should be left appearing vacant or derelict. Landlords should be encouraged and assisted to maintain and decorate their vacant shop fronts.
Open up the whole of the Todd Mall during the week: Many long term locals who remember Todd Street before it was closed off and made into a mall consider that the Mall has never been successful. It has not drawn the economic activity that it was meant to. Allowing traffic to access the mall one way would provide a boost to business and general activity. It could be closed on market days and for other festivals and gatherings.
Have a clear time frame for this “revitalisation process” – no more than two to three years. Past attempts to revitalise the Alice Springs have dragged out for too long, with plenty of talk but no action. This needs to be an action orientated plan with strict short to medium term time frames, says Mrs Lambley.
A balance needs to be struck between creative, practical, affordable and functional. Previous attempts at this process have been hijacked by people with “no skin in the game” and who were not particularly concerned about practical considerations. The emphasis has to be on creative options that are affordable and easily maintained.
The National Iconic Indigenous Art Gallery should be located at the old Melanka Site. The placement of this $50m National Iconic Indigenous Art Gallery in the Alice Springs CBD will serve to turn around the whole CBD with its synergies with many other iconic venues and features in the CBD.
The revitalisation of the CBD should also embrace contemporary Community Safety and Crime prevention strategies.
Difficult decisions need to be made on what has to stay and what can be removed or changed in the CBD? This is always controversial.


  1. I don’t think we should be giving money to businesses in the mall. They should pay their own way. And we should encourage them to not sit on an empty asset by charging higher rates for empty shopfronts.

  2. Excellent. Bring the arts into the Todd Mall precinct. Artists of all kinds would love to use vacant shops as free pop-up spaces until they were tenanted permanently.
    No cost and no maintenance.
    Revitalise the arts and the area is revitalised.
    The government and town council should lead the way with some of their empty spaces.

  3. Just a few thoughts: A Mall is a Mall, it is a pedestrian way not a motor way with parking lots. The previous revitalization and removal of the sails was in my view an error of judgement. I do not understand how motor cars can revive business and provide pedestrian activity.
    I would like to see the whole Mall for walking as a promenade from early morning for breakfast time to 8pm, even 9pm in summer, with some greenery and canopy.
    The current use of metallic benches reduces any wish to sit down and relax, being too hot in summer and too cold in winter, with no shade overhead.
    Some opening towards the Todd River which is currently only used for ugly grey administrative buildings and car park when it could be better used for relaxation over a beautiful view, while munching a roasted cob of corn or drink a latte or lick an ice cream.
    Improve the decoration of shop windows to attract buyers, even after closing time: they will come back the next day. Too much ugly cheap stuff on the footpath does not attract the discerning buyer, certainly not the overseas tourists.
    Security and insurance premiums have taken over and the shutters drawn down after 5pm make the Mall look like a gaol. More lighting after sunset will bring more human presence and beat the unruly and bored kids and reduce the need for more policing (again a gaol feeling).
    Allow coffee shops to remain open till late. All depends on rental which are much too high. Property owners are greedy, it brings town down to their own disadvantage.
    Pop up art is a nice temporary solution. It shows what the locals can do and how creative Alice is.
    Small eateries (perhaps on the river side) not only on market days but regularly could help attract some life on a daily basis together with young (or not so young) musicians gigs.
    A water feature seems ridiculous in a dry desert climate when PAWA ask us to reduce costly water consumption.
    And finally, urgently, use the Melanka site quick and smart for the new Aboriginal art and culture centre including researching, learning and teaching of Aboriginal languages.

  4. Robyn is taking a less opportunistic and more constructive, even bi-partisan, line than usual with her suggestions here. Engagement with landlords, and assessment of existing expenditure and maintenance practices are good starting points, if they have not already been done by the NT government and AS Town Council.
    The suggestion by Mr/Ms “Free Cash Giveaway” to “encourage [landlords] to not sit on an empty asset by charging higher rates for empty shopfronts” – i.e. by council charging them extra rates if a shop is left vacant for too long – sounds like a very good suggestion.
    I also share “Free Cash Giveaway’s” belief that public money should not be contributing to the improvement of private business premises.
    I like Robyn’s proposal to allow one-way traffic flow in the whole Mall.
    On the other hand, I strongly disagree with her suggestion that the NT government should enrich the white shoe brigade further by buying the old Melanka site. Not only would that use up $10m of the funds that will be needed to construct the art gallery; but it would also have the unedifying effect of having the gallery pearl facing off against the ugliness of the 24 hour servo wasteland, ultra-banal shop fronts, the Thrifty Car rentals yard and the KFC outlet: exactly what is not needed for the ambience of Central Australia’s foremost cultural attraction.
    There are other good sites that are already owned by the government that could be used for the national Indigenous art gallery, in or very close to the CBD.
    I also like the suggestions coming from many citizens for more shaded (probably multi-story) car parking close to the Mall and the CBD shopping centres, and more diversified indoor play spaces for children in the vicinity of the Mall and the shopping centres. We have to remember that it is too darn hot to do without these facilities for six months of the year.
    I don’t believe that we should go overboard and provide every self-styled artist or craftsperson with a free pop-up space without regard to the nature and quality of the work on display. We could wind up with too much very self-indulgent clutter of little interest to most tourists and locals if we don’t watch out. You can revitalize the arts without going to extremes.
    In relation to Maya’s thoughts: Malls are not sacred. We can change its name to the Arts and Business Precinct, or whatever. Don’t get hung up on the word Mall. Cars will not interfere with pedestrian activity where there is in actual fact normally very little pedestrian activity anyway. In the six months of the year when it is too hot for most tourists, and most locals are at work or school in our air-conditioned caves, who is going to walk around anyway, Maya?
    As for window shopping, we are at home reading the Alice Springs News Online and the New York Times on our Ipads, cooking our gourmet meals with Masterchef on the telly, ordering up new clothes and food processors from China, or watching Game of Thrones until midnight.
    Why should shopkeepers risk more broken windows courtesy of alienated drunks or bored children by taking down their shutters after dark if we local residents are not going to go out in the heat of the night to gaze at bohemian creations or great art that we already see on our trip to get coffee from the Red Sands during the day?
    Sorry, but more lights are not going to do it. We are all mostly too time poor for that.
    And allow coffee shops to remain open till late? Nothing, except the non-appearance of we patrons, is making them shut at 4pm.


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