Ambitious play for the lucrative cultural tourism market

17 Nov 2022

City of Newcastle has outlined its plan to become a nationally significant destination for cultural tourism as part of a masterplan designed to preserve Newcastle's cultural institutions and enhance the surrounding precinct.

Councillors will vote next week to adopt the new Cultural Precinct Masterplan, which provides a roadmap to amplify the existing and emerging opportunities in the city's arts and entertainment hub.

The precinct covers an area loosely bounded by Honeysuckle, Civic, Laman Street, the former Tower Cinemas, and the edge of the Hunter Street Mall.

It includes institutions and public spaces such as the Civic Theatre, City Hall, Newcastle Art Gallery, Newcastle City Library, Civic Park, Victoria Theatre, Conservatorium of Music, the University of Newcastle's inner city facilities and the Boat Harbour site on Wharf Road.

Newcastle's two five-star hotels also fall within this precinct, with the Kingsley and the QT playing an important role in improving the visitor experience in and around neighbouring cultural institutions.

Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said City of Newcastle was committed to protecting and promoting the city's cultural heritage.

"In October 2020, the elected Council resolved to explore the creation of a formal ‘Civic Cultural Precinct’ to ensure appropriate long-term planning for the protection of the city’s cultural institutions as well as ways of enhancing and better activating the precinct," Cr Nelmes said.

"Newcastle is already known as an innovative and creative community with a vibrant cultural history and an amazing depth of talent within its performing and visual arts sector.

"As part of this planning process, we have laid out our vision to grow our visitor economy by creating a nationally significant platform for arts, culture, festivals, and expression.

“This will ultimately deliver a diversity of experiences within in a walkable footprint that will preserve the heritage of the precinct while delivering beneficial cultural, economic and tourism outcomes."

The Cultural Precinct Plan was developed following consultation with 23 cultural institutions, community groups and local businesses and will require ongoing collaboration between stakeholders to be delivered.

It identifies the importance of key cultural projects such as the expansion of Newcastle Art Gallery and the refurbishment of the Victoria Theatre, which, along with increased collaboration across institutions, will help unlock more than $16 million in direct and indirect benefits to the local economy each year, including almost 35,000 additional visitor nights.

These projects would be augmented by "five big moves" identified to reshape the precinct, including the creation of an "academic corridor" to help integrate the Cultural Precinct with the University of Newcastle’s City Campus, and increased activation around Wheeler Place, Museum Park and Boat Harbour.