We all know the Covid-19 shutdowns are having a significant impact on local economies and communities. But it is neither all good, nor or all bad. It is more nuanced than that and is affecting areas within the same community quite differently.
Have a think about where you live and consider the (1) parks; (2) the major business district; and (3) your local neighbourhood shops. As I explain below, large town centres are copping it badly. But smaller centres and public green spaces are still doing quite well.
Covid-19 impact on Public Green Space: GOOD
As I went for a walk with my family though Parramatta Park and along Parramatta’s beautiful waterfront, I saw more people jogging, cycling and enjoying the sunshine than I ever have before. It was buzzing with activity! Due to the Covid-19 restrictions being gradually relaxed, you’re going to see more and more people out and about exercising with bootcamps, running and family BBQs. You may have noticed this yourself that your favourite walking track is now becoming more crowded.
Covid-19 impact on Large Town Centres: BAD
Visit any major business area, main street or CBD at the moment and you’ll find them depressing. Compared to the normal hustle and bustle before Covid-19, Church St, Parramatta feels like ghost town that is just barely hanging in there. There are an increasing number of restaurants going bust and looking for new tenants. Sydney CBD is much the same. With most people working from home, larger CBDs are being hit really hard with high rents and no passing trade. That’s a bad combination.
Covid-19 impact on Neighbourhood Centres: OKAY
With everyone working from home, there are lots of new customers visiting their local neighbourhood shops – albeit standing at a distance from each other. There has been a change in businesses usual clientele but chatting with the business owners at Dundas shopping centre, they haven’t seen a reduction in total sales. In fact, some have said their only issue has been getting enough supplies as they compete with panic buying and supple chain issues.
So it would appear at least anecdotally that whilst large centres are doing poorly, Covid-19 has been alright for green spaces and smaller neighbourhood centres. The challenge now facing local councils is how best to support their business centres, of all shapes and sizes, post Covid-19. It would appear the time is right to get some good town centre renewal programs in place.