Katoomba residents pushing for more pop-up shops to fill the increasing number of vacant properties on the main street have won the support of the town’s business community.
The Katoomba Chamber of Commerce and Community (KCCC) and the Blue Mountains Economic Enterprise (BMEE) are backing two local women who have set up a Facebook page and are launching a crowd funding campaign in a bid to revitalise the shopping strip.
Curator Saskia Everingham and artist Mandy Schoene-Salter set up the Facebook page ‘Mind the Gap - Pop Up Blue Mountains’ in April and hope to establish the crowd funding campaign by the end of this month.
“We have lost our critical mass of shops and don’t want Katoomba to become a ghost town,” Ms Everingham said at a recent KCCC meeting at the Carrington Hotel.
KCCC president Mark Jarvis told the Gazette pop-up shops was “a fantastic concept and we support it in Katoomba”.
“It would add security, safety and attract pedestrian movement and interaction in the town inside currently empty retail or office premises,” Mr Jarvis said.
“Surely landlords can allow these shops to be used, even for limited timeframes — I think it is a very small imposition.”
Inspired by a successful pop-up shop development model called Renew Australia that emerged from Newcastle, Ms Everingham and Ms Schoene-Salter want to work with landlords to accept short-term (typically 30-day) leases inside empty shops.
These leases would be available to local artists and community groups as well as private businesses.
The concept also has the potential to work in non-retail areas like open, unused public spaces and laneways.
“The pop-up shop concept lowers barriers to try out small business ideas, draws people to the main street and brings direct benefits to property owners,” said Ms Everingham.
“As foot traffic increases, there is less vandalism and shops are more likely to lease.”
Mind the Gap plan to hold an information session and fundraising drive in coming months and will then hold an initial call-out for expressions of interest.
The Gazette understands the initial focus will be on the council-owned vacant shops inside the Katoomba Civic Centre.
Other sites will follow if support can be secured from landlords.
BMEE chief executive officer Jacqueline Brinkman said her organisation is assisting Mind the Gap - Pop Up Blue Mountains with planning, legal, and administration issues.
“The rate of empty retail shops in Katoomba has reached a critical level,” Ms Brinkman said.
“Mind the Gap is responding to an urgent need for action and complements the various other economic development projects being undertaken in the region.
“It is implementing a model which we know to have been successful in other regions.”
For more information visit www.mindthegapbm.com.au or facebook.com/mindthegap.popup.