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Perth’s CBD woes are real, but the only way it’ll get better is if we show it love

However the article fails really to acknowledge the broader picture of the retail recession that we’re
in; as reported by WAtoday, WA is the second worst performing in the country according to CommSec’s latest State of the States, not to mention disruptive technologies like Ubereats and
Amazon each playing their part.

Of course the city is getting offered the same chain food offerings because they are the only businesses that can afford the rents; if the economy was in a better state, we’d being seeing more
unique retail and food offerings rather than the Liquorlands, Subways and Zambreros we’re
currently stuck with.

That being said I think vibrancy is a key term here; for decades the city has struggled to break free
from the shackles of its dullsville tag. It seemed to do so briefly when Elizabeth Quay and Yagan
Square first opened to much fanfare, but now we seem to be constantly talking ourselves down like
we did a decade ago.

In the article, the unnamed developer bemoans the fact that Yagan Square isn’t even a square.

While I agree the food court is lifeless and the options are overpriced, there’s nothing better than
walking through the square at 8pm on a Friday as the Eagles or Dockers game plays on the big screen to a crowd cheering on over drinks at the Shoe or just watching from the benches as people come and go, hopping from one bar to another, off to see a band play, or to see a play at the State Theatre or a movie at Palace.

It’s certainly better than what was there a decade ago – a rail line and a dodgy footbridge.

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The influx of new apartments currently being built around the city and Subi area, including the 401 residential dwellings at NV Apartments on Murray street slated to be completed in June next year and the recently completed swathe of student accommodation along Stirling Street in Northbridge, will help to bring the vibrancy and the sustainable, unique retail and food economies that we’re
craving.

But to be honest, we have far too often been willing to dismiss the city as lifeless and cold, regardless of how hard businesses and community groups try to activate it, simply because up until recently there was hardly anyone living in the city to actually appreciate their efforts because we all buggered off home on the train at 5pm.

This speaks to a broader issue Perth is fighting against: we’ve had a decades-long culture where all
we did in the CBD was come into work and then drive home again.

It is changing, but this sort of cultural shift takes generations, not to mention a functioning city council.

Naturally as we’re becoming ever so slightly more refined; what with our Fringe shows, our Book of
Mormons and our multi-award winning stadium, we get impatient that the city hasn’t become the
Melbourne-but-with-better-beaches we want it to be overnight.

It will. In the meantime let’s appreciate what we’ve got; the only way we’re going to encourage
decent retail and food choices to come back is by hitting the pavement and spending time in the
city.

Go to the weekend markets at Yagan, see who’s protesting what at Forrest Chase, take the ferry
to the South Perth foreshore, go see what new street art has popped up, go see the new museum
when it opens next year and for God’s sake get public transport in.

Perth is trying its hardest to show us some love, perhaps we should show it some in return.

Mark Tilly is a journalist and resident of Perth.

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