closing streets brings communities together

“In Sydney, the vehicle has been the dominant player on our streets. These closures provide a truly demonstrable example of how life can become the dominant player.

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The program began with an event in Kings Cross last month, which was followed by Redfern Street and Crown Street. Rather than inviting external suppliers to create markets, the focus was on local businesses; a local bottle store said its sales increased 900% that day.

Attendance figures have also increased over the weeks; from around 1600 people in Kings Cross to over 3000 in Redfern and 5000 in Surry Hills. The next event will take place at Glebe Point Road on Saturday, before moving to Harris Street, Pyrmont on February 19 and Stanley Street, Darlinghurst on March 12.

Potts Point Partnership chairman Brandon Martignago, owner of the Dulcie cocktail bar in Kings Cross, said the companies had received mixed feedback on the execution of the council. Some said they weren’t warned enough to participate properly after a stressful Christmas period.

There was also frustration that the council had taken so long to warm to the idea. “We’ve been pushing for street closures for the past two or three years, especially during COVID, as an opportunity to activate neighborhoods and use outdoor space,” Mr. Martignago said.

“But the end result was that the city set a benchmark that shows it can do it. While these may not have ticked everyone’s box, it has set a precedent for what we can do moving forward.

He said the benefits were obvious: Residents engaged with drummers, marching bands and drag queens; Potts Point’s regular Saturday markets had a larger footprint; hospitality venues were able to extend outdoor dining to more customers; and retailers had more eyes on their products.

The City of Sydney has closed its best-known inner-city streets to traffic for a day each, with cars and buses replaced by a traveling crew of performers and pubs or bars spilling onto the road. Credit:Edwina Pickles

“It was a better atmosphere that moved it away from a commercial street with cars, to a community space where people could bring kids and walk their dogs,” Mr. Martignago said. “We really want to do it again.”

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Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the cost and logistics of road closures had deterred street parties in the past.

“The pandemic has created an environment where the community is overwhelmingly supportive of our work to help businesses operate outdoors and unprecedented collaboration with the state government has made the closures logistically possible.”

Each street closure costs the council approximately $140,000, covering traveling entertainment, security, staff, fencing, furniture, decorations and hostile vehicle mitigation. But the bulk of the cost goes to NSW Transport for road closures as well as user-pay policing.

Cr Moore has asked the state government to waive the fee for any council wishing to hold a similar event at Sydney’s CBD Summit on Friday. “Even covering the costs of these services would be a big step towards the sustainability of events,” she said.

The council has also requested $5 million from the state government so it can repeat the series four more times this year.

“We’re sure that with a regular schedule of closures, businesses would invest in infrastructure and offerings to make these events even better, and the wider community would come out and enjoy the party,” she said. “People want to get out of their homes and enjoy what Sydney has to offer, safely.”

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