Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Farrelly takes aim at Oxford Street

The credibility gap between Council and on-the-street reality got a good workout from Elizabeth Farrelly in the SMH today.

Even as Kings Cross is hinting at a partial retail resurgence, Oxford Street remains bleak.

Several blocks on the north side of the street are owned by Council, and there has been friction with many of their tenants -- the small, independent unique ones on the whole, whose turnover was slashed while the uniform granite and Smartpoles 'upgrade' was installed at public expense.

But Council has a vision for the street. Unfortunately it is controlled by their property department who differ from the white shoe brigade only in that they are not risking any of their own money. They love the expensive places and the franchises, seeing it all in terms of dollars per square metre. Words like unique, local, creative and affordable are absent from their vocabulary.

As Elizabeth Farrelly put it, they are 'still seeing revitalisation as a means of precluding rent reduction, rather than a response to it.'

This cultural dissonance exists within some other Council departments as well, and no Councillor seems to comprehend it (except, I suspect, John McInerney). Placing the issue into public dialogue is not easy. Congratulations to EF for doing so.

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