A Coogee Bay Road dining and entertainment pop-up precinct is among a range of ideas being considered by Randwick City Council to support Randwick City businesses get back on their feet following COVID-19.
With food and accommodation sectors hardest hit by the pandemic with thousands of jobs lost, Council is working with businesses on activation ideas and ways to attract customers and create local jobs.
One idea being discussed with Coogee businesses is a potential three-month activation program to provide more space for people to gather, eat and drink and assist businesses with social distancing requirements. A part of the road could be closed to traffic and turned over to community use.
The activation ideas include a ‘live and local’ stage for local musicians, pop-up parks with real grass, plants and seating, street art, giant games and moveable tables and chairs.
A final decision on whether to proceed with any temporary activation proposal is yet to be made and will be considered by Council once a detailed plan has been developed.
But the idea has the backing of some local businesses including the Coogee Beach Burrito Company, Little Jack Horner cafe and the Coogee Bay Hotel.
Randwick Mayor Danny Said explains the plans could help activate the town centre and provide an interesting and inviting community space to safely enjoy Coogee’s finest food.
“All of our town centres and businesses have been hit hard by COVID-19. In particular, the Coogee town centre has been disrupted by both COVID and recent road upgrade works.
“During recent weeks and months, I have heard from businesses of the pressure space restrictions are having on local cafes and I have heard our local hotels continue to experience high accommodation vacancies. Businesses are feeling the pressure and Council is looking at ways we can help to boost our local economy and create jobs,” explains Mayor Said.
Coogee Beach Burrito founder and CEO Blake Read is supportive of the idea.
“I think activating the Coogee town centre is a fantastic idea. When the street was temporarily made one-way as part of the recent streetscape works, it just seemed to calm things down. There wasn’t as much traffic, and there were more people walking and it was more friendly,” says Mr Read.
“Traffic is just cars, I don’t know why we have to have so much infrastructure based around cars. What we’re learning and what COVID-19 is showing us is that we need our local economy and we need our local neighbourhood. Having a creative shared space within our main centre is all positive to me.”
Rory Duncan, the General Manager of the Coogee Bay Hotel – a Coogee icon since 1873 – said Coogee has a unique mix of businesses.
“There are so many unique businesses in Coogee, no two businesses are the same and they’re mostly independent and family owned and operated.
“At this time, a sense of community is more important than ever, so anything we can do to support local businesses and bring everyone together is only a positive thing.”
Brenton McHatton, the owner of Little Jack Horner on the corner of Coogee Bay Road and Ardern St said Coogee is a special place.
“I’ve been in Coogee my whole life and I’ve been in business in Coogee for 15 years. I love the hustle and bustle of the place on a sunny day, I love the vibe and the energy of the place, but it’s still small enough that you know everybody in town,” says Mr McHatton.
“The goal here is to get people back to Coogee, to get people into the area, and give people a reason to come here - whether it be locals or people just outside the community.
“Activating the area will be something that’s not been done in any of the other communities in the area and it’ll create a point of difference and a unique selling point for us and that can only be a good thing for the community, for Coogee, for the businesses and for the locals.
“I know some people in the area want to keep it small and local, but we’re part of a bigger community, and it’s about people being able to go out and interact, and still have social distancing,” says Mr McHatton.
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