IT is no longer all stops to Newcastle Station. But now, all has stopped at The Station.
A more accurate moniker for what was Newcastle Station is now The Stationary. It doesn’t surprise me one iota that Renew Newcastle announced last week they have somewhat ironically deactivated their ‘activation’ less than six months into an 18-month lease.
And this announcement comes after anchor tenant Hunt&Gather’s shop, The Victoria, pulled the plug on their involvement at The Station last November.
Surely the loss of Renew Newcastle is a massive blow to the NSW State Government’s expressed intention to revive the disused station as a “hallmark destination” – to quote Hunter and Central Coast Development Corporation’s Michael Cassel.
The State Government does not want a heritage site boasting beautiful Victorian-era buildings being little more than an everyday, in-your-face reminder of the lack of planning surrounding the closing of the railway. The NSW Auditor-General’s report is all the reminder we need, thanks very much.
One can only hope, without a lot of confidence, that the Station is not another Newcastle Post Office saga in the making. Will the government flog it off? It is just a little too easy for the Hunter and Central Coast Development Corporation to now say they gave a not-for-profit the opportunity to run the place, but they couldn’t do it, and so it is up-for-grabs to the biggest purse.
Certainly, Revitalising Newcastle’s self-proclaimed objective of drawing more people to the city centre via The Station is one box that is yet to be ticked. The Station has so far failed to rate as a location where Novocastrians flock to meet with friends or take visitors for a coffee. Besides the opening shindig, where Revitalising Newcastle spent around $100k on a one-off party on a Saturday night last September, getting the public to attend the space has proven nigh impossible.
Perhaps that $100k might have been better used to back a series of events organised by Renew Newcastle, rather than to have been blown on a big bang. We’ll never know.
Less than a year ago, Revitalising Newcastle told the Herald that The Station should be a place that people gravitate towards. “It should be the place that if you climbed into a taxi at the airport and say ‘where do I go in Newcastle’, the taxi driver should say ‘the first place to go is The Station’,” Mr Cassel said. I reckon you’d be lucky to find a taxi driver who knew what The Station was.
Without access to sufficient funding to promote The Station, there was always a reasonable likelihood that Renew Newcastle had signed up for mission impossible, despite relentless efforts by general manager Chris Saunders to entice events that could pay their way.
Renew Newcastle has done a lot for this city, particularly through its commitment to supporting startups bursting with energy and vision but lacking capital. Their model for the reinvigoration of cities via cultural participation and revitalisation of vacant spaces has been adopted in many places around the globe. But trying to get The Station going without adequate and dedicated funding was a tad too ambitious.
It is not unexpected that Renew Newcastle has determined their work in the city of Newcastle is done. As founder Marcus Westbury said – the energy and aspiration of Renew Newcastle was always reliant on time and place. But it is unfortunate that the conclusion of their great work in this city coincides with the realisation that they cannot make The Station work.
Perhaps that $100k might have been better used to back a series of events organised by Renew Newcastle, rather than to have been blown on a big bang.
What now for The Station? Renew Newcastle’s lease was only for 18 months, and the wishlist of eateries, retail spaces, live entertainment (good luck with convincing nearby residents) and open cinema appears to have evaporated.
Could The Station be subject to a successful Aboriginal land claim, seeing as NSW legislation allows for claims on property that is not needed for an essential public purpose or is not legally used and/or occupied?
The clock is ticking. The longer The Station remains neither active nor accessible, the longer it will be a highly visible reminder of the lack of proper planning by this state government that has overshadowed the revitalisation of Newcastle.