The Shields Street Trial Activation Initiative features Sunday themed family days, three Saturday market stalls and live entertainment though partnerships with CBD traders, education providers and buskers.
Cairns Mayor Bob Manning said Council had invested about $138 million in the city centre over the last four years as part of an ongoing enhancement strategy.
“It’s important that the CBD remains a vibrant precinct that engages not only visitors, but importantly, also locals,” Cr Manning said.
“While Council can provide the infrastructure, it is up to all of us to support the CBD to ensure its future prosperity.
“We recently reinstated free parking on Saturday afternoons and all day on Sundays as one way we can encourage residents to come into the city, walk around, browse the shops, have something to eat and enjoy the many great things about our CBD.
“Initiatives like the Shields Street activation provide many more reasons for families to come to the CBD and make a day of it.”
A cornerstone of the activation is Sunday on Shields – themed events over 11 Sundays starting on August 4 – with the aim of enticing locals into the CBD through entertainment, pop-up markets and workshops.
Proposed events include “Snakes and Bugs” in partnership with Zoo to You; a circus theme with Cycad Circus; “Farm Comes to Town” with Fun-E-Farm, and a “Super Heroes” event that includes fancy dress initiatives and emergency services personnel.
Three Saturday market days – coinciding with Cairns Festival, Targa Rally and the Cairns Rotary Duck Race – will be moved from the Esplanade to Shields Street as part of the trial.
Shields Street will also be configured to include two stages – a “creative” and an “active” space.
CQU, James Cook University, TAFE, My Pathways and Cotton Club will activate the creative space though art, fashion, child’s play area and live music, while the active space will host demonstrations and be supplemented with Council’s active living program.
To cater to the expected increase of visitors to the city, the Lake Street multi-storey car park will be aligned with weekend on-street parking regulations – free from 2pm on Saturday and all day on Sunday – during the trial.
Cr Manning said feedback from traders on plans to energise the Cairns CBD was central to the activation trial.
“A vast majority (84%) of the 40 traders who responded to the survey backed the running of an activation program in the Cairns CBD on Sundays, with 97% supporting that activation in Shields St,” Cr Manning said.
“There was also significant support for the activation to be extended to Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings.”
The activation program is one of a range of initiatives to increase visitation in the city centre, which include:
Reinstating a CBD Place Manager to be a key liaison between traders and Council
An independent review on the CBD’s current commercial offerings and seeking guidance by experts on worldwide trends
Reinvigorating Council’s Urban Spaces program to give small start-up businesses the opportunity to trial trading in the CBD
A review of lighting and safety in Shields Street
An overall review of security services in the CBD, outlining future opportunities and advancements in security technologies, and
A review of wayfinding signage.
“There are now a range of projects and initiatives on the table that are aimed at enhancing the CBD to make it more attractive to locals and to ensure it also delivers from a tourism perspective,” Cr Manning said.
“We acknowledge that CBD traders have been facing challenges, but it is hoped these Council initiatives will increase the volume and frequency of visitors to the city. What we really need at the end of the day is a half a million more legs traversing the CBD – in other words, we need to boost our tourist numbers through effective/sustainable promotion of this region as a premier destination, and in addition, attract locals back into their city centre.
“This requires a collaborative effort from businesses, landlords and the Chamber of Commerce, and indeed, from everyone who lives in this region to make the effort to work together to support the CBD and local businesses.”
In addition to the Shield Street Activation Plan, Council has set aside funds in the Budget to partially fund two major projects within the CBD which will undoubtedly add to its attraction for locals and tourists:
the $3.6 million completion of the Court House refurbishment as part of the broader Gallery Precinct, and
the commencement of a major upgrade to the Esplanade Dining Precinct and Stage 3 of the Shields Street project, with $3 million allocated this year, and $13.5 million next year.
Florence Street will also be redeveloped to provide improved pedestrian connectivity from the CBD to the Cairns Performing Arts Centre and Munro Martin Parklands, with nearly $10 million allocated this year and $5 million in the next budget to complete the project.