Darby Street trial creates record trade boom for local businesses

07 Feb 2023

A City of Newcastle trial to extend outdoor dining options and improve pedestrian and cyclist safety along Darby Street has resulted in a trading boom for local businesses.

Economic data from October to December 2022 shows that Darby Street as a whole achieved its highest ever trading revenue levels, which occurred during the first three months of CN’s six-month trial of streetscape improvements under the NSW Government’s Streets as Shared Spaces initiative.

The trial, which included the installation of a temporary raised outdoor dining area, as well as a relocatable "mini deck" outdoor dining, and traffic calming measures to reduce motorist speed and improve safety and accessibility for pedestrians and cyclists, was designed to encourage increased visitation and trade along Darby Street.

Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said economic data show a 17% increase in sales revenue along Darby Street during the trial period compared to the previous three months (July to September 2022). This was 5.2 per cent higher than the average sales revenue growth experienced anywhere else in Newcastle during the same period.

"Even accounting for the normal December trading spike, Darby Street has fared well during this period, with sales levels also up 9.2 per cent compared to the same period last year," Cr Nelmes said.

"What was really pleasing to see was 47% of the total sales over the Christmas period were attributed to customers who don’t live in Newcastle."

Pedestrian and cyclist traffic also reported an increase to the area, on average up 18% and 13% respectively.

City of Newcastle has just wrapped up two days of consultation with businesses along Darby Street, as they near the end of the six-month trial.

Co-Owner of Three Monkeys café on Darby Street, Anthony Strachan said the trial has been a positive step towards bringing people back into the precinct. 

"For us the dining deck has been a fantastic success, it's one of the first places people want to sit when they come in,” Mr Strachan said.

“I think the trial has been great to bring in more tourists and create a more pedestrian friendly space. I would however like to see some of this work continued along the rest of the street, to create a longer-term beautification of the precinct." 

Deputy Lord Mayor Declan Clausen said there was an overall positive sentiment towards the trial.

"To date, our online survey has been completed by 280 people, with 67% in favour of keeping the trial infrastructure, which includes the wooden dining deck, traffic calming and the pedestrian crossing adjacent to the headphones courtyard," Cr Clausen said.

"During the trial we also heard that parking on Darby Street was a concern to businesses. We responded by converting over 30 all-day paid parking spaces into free two-hour parking, and we're now looking at further innovative approaches to assist with the ongoing monitoring of parking in the area. 

"The trial forms a first step toward a possible upgrade to Darby Street. We will also apply what we've learned from the trial to commercial areas across Newcastle LGA as part of our popular Local Centre Upgrade program."

The outcomes of the Darby Street trial, including the results of community consultation and data analysis, will be presented to Councillors, for the potential retention of infrastructure installed for the trial.

Community engagement on the trial is open until 28 February 2023, to submit an online feedback form, visit www.newcastle.nsw.gov.au/Have-Your-Say/Darby-SaSS.

The trial has been made possible with a $500,000 grant from the NSW Government through the Streets as Shared Spaces program (Round 2) and funding from the City of Newcastle Urban Centres Program.