West side story: bringing life to Adelaide’s underutilised laneways

November 12, 2012 / By

At a time when the retail sector is under pressure, many retailers are considering how to reinvent their retail offering. Existing businesses are looking to attract shoppers and remain competitive, while some new business ventures are looking for low cost options in emerging locations. In some cities around the world, laneway activation has been successful in adding vitality to underutilised areas. This could be the answer for bringing vitality back to Adelaide’s West End as the area undergoes a major revitalisation.

Currently, the area is characterised by two main functions. One is to service a large student population at the University of South Australia’s City West campus and TAFE SA’s campuses, while the other is to play host to one of Adelaide’s bustling late night entertainment precincts.

In recent years, the West End has been held back by its lack of diversity in retail and entertainment offering and reputation of being a dangerous area at night. The West End has offered little to visitors to venture West of King William Street, with most retail activity being concentrated within Rundle Mall and nearby streets (Rundle Street).

The West End of the Adelaide CBD is, however, in the midst of an evolution, which will change the area dramatically over the next five to ten years. A combination of state, federal and local government spending along with the university and private sectors, will add over $4.1 billion in investment spending over this time. Major projects include:

  • New Royal Adelaide Hospital ($2.1 billion) and South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute ($200 million)
  • Riverbank Precinct and Convention Centre redevelopment ($350 million)
  • Adelaide Oval redevelopment ($535 million) and bridge to link the Riverbank precinct ($40 million)
  • University of South Australia City West Learning Centre ($95 million) and campus upgrades

There is significant potential to build on this investment spending and drive further activity in the property sector through laneway activation. Laneway activation is a term which describes the process of making physical and functional changes at street level to introduce a diverse range of functions and activities. In Adelaide’s West End, the laneways could become the ‘ant tracks’ that connect these new major projects to existing CBD precincts.

The City of Melbourne, Australia, has been successful in its laneway activation, which has been effective in providing a range of uses to draw people into laneways. Throughout the day, cafes attract tourists and business people alike, while at night time the young and hip are drawn to live music venues and small bars.

The private sector is well placed to take advantage of the opportunities created through an increase in foot traffic along laneways, with new retailers, artists and business ventures filling under-utilised space.

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