Following on from previous frustrations, I returned to Newcastle on the weekend.
Returning to Newcastle after any length of time away, the startling thing is just how badly shattered the CBD has actually become. When you live in Newcastle it is easy to become almost blind to the fact that the majority of the two main streets are broken, boarded up, vandalised, empty, derelict and abandoned. You assume that it is normal and inevitable until occasionally some one with fresh eyes sees it and reminds you to look again. Decades of continuing decline has meant that people have become almost oblivious to it.
I spent the weekend doing a little bit of footwork for some future projects that I’m thinking about (more about that below). I walked a loop of the main streets of Newcastle (Hunter and King Streets) and took notes and photos of the buildings that were empty at street level.
The results marked up using Google Maps below paint a devastating picture of the true state of one of Australia’s largest cities.
The map is best viewed in a larger format (click through and you can view it in google earth or switch to see it as an aerial overlay). The pink line is the route followed and the red buildings are ones that are empty or mostly empty at ground level. Orange buildings are ones where the ground floor may be used but there are significant vacancies on upper floors, green buildings are ones that appear active from street level and unmarked ones are ones where my notes aren’t too clear or i couldn’t quite figure it out. The map should be roughly accurate (hey you get what you pay for and i am sure someone has done a study at some stage that produced a lot less and cost a lot more!).
It paints a picture of a city gone to seed.
Try as i might to be generous to all concerned, i can’t see it as anything less than a perfect storm of economic decline, political paralysis and incompetence, unconscionable commercial self interest, insane over-regulation and decades of widely distributed neglect.
Anyone who saw the first episode of Not Quite Art (which is still available to download from the ABC TV web site) may have twigged that i am fairly passionate and frustrated about the untapped potential to bring some life back to Newcastle’s broken CBD through the use of low-cost creative strategies. In the series I went to Glasgow – a comparable industrial city – to find and show some examples of how cities can be a catalyst for quality cultural activities by growing them rather than building them.
- Renew Newcastle is on! (0.655)
- Does anyone in Newcastle have vacant real estate? (0.655)
- Creative Initiative: 2009 Hunter Valley Research Foundation Lecture (0.516)
- Lonely Planet: Newcastle one of the hottest cities in the world!? (0.516)
- How to fail and why it's important (Deakin University occasional address) (0.516)