Entertainment Style Kirstie Clements: In the market for ideas to revive our post-apocalyptic CBDs

Kirstie Clements: In the market for ideas to revive our post-apocalyptic CBDs

Before the pandemic Melbourne's GPO terrace was thronged with strollers and shoppers. The job now is to bring them back. Photo: Getty
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As we head into, hopefully, the home stretch of lockdown, everyone I know who has spent Sydney’s 70-something days of walking grimly in circles around the park is starting to enthuse about where they will go first.

One thing we are excitedly awaiting is the freedom to frequent restaurants, cafes and bars and do our bit to keep the hospitality industry alive. After that, more of our best to support local retailers.

Some of my more recent walks through the desolate Sydney CBD have felt almost post-apocalyptic: empty light rail carriages, luxury stores boarded up to deter smash and grab raiders, poker machines eerily blinking behind the doors of locked, dark pubs.

Kate Lillian Muir of A Good Plan Group was having the same experience in Melbourne CBD, which a recent survey found is visited daily by a mere 7 per cent of pre-COVID human traffic.

“I was so struck by the emptiness, and very much missing the vibrancy of the city,”  she says.

“I was wondering what could be done, and then I thought ‘Maybe I should try to do something about it’.”

Muir wrote to the owners of the GPO building (the super fund ISPT) and asked for permission to use the laneway that runs between the GPO and Myer to establish and launch a vibrant weekend market. To Muir’s delight and surprise, they agreed.

‘Delicious bites, celebratory sips’

Postal Lane Markets will be a curation of Australian makers, creators, live music and performance, all set amidst “delicious bites and celebratory sips” running up Postal Lane, around the corner and onto the stately Elizabeth Street Terrace of the GPO Building. All this set to begin from the first weekend of November and run through to the end of January (depending on current health advice).

The purpose is to bring energy back to the city and support local businesses, makers and creators by celebrating and showcasing their work. Muir is currently searching for stallholders.

It’s a wonderful idea, and Sydney could certainly benefit from something similar. The pandemic is making changes to the way we live that are irrevocable, among them how we use a CBD no longer filled with commuters who are working from home and likely to keep on working that way.

A friend moved into Sydney’s inner-city last week, and by inner I mean  a towering apartment block just a few doors down from David Jones. The views from her window are floors and floors of empty offices, desultory discount chemists, the odd Woolworths Metro.

How much more human and cheerful it would feel if we could have laneways of trestle tables, with local vendors selling fresh produce, creating community? I could wander along, gathering ingredients for dinner while feeling like Julia Child in Paris.

People were hungry for experiences and connection pre-COVID, as was evident by the huge audiences for Sydney’s Vivid festival, or the night noodle markets in Hyde Park. Hopefully this type of public event will only grow, as we seek to re-connect after months of lockdown.

I don’t miss malls, and I never want to see the freezer section of Aldi again. And when the borders are open, I very much hope to be at Postal Lane-style markets shouting my best “Bonjour!”

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