How the City of Melbourne is stepping up its support for CBD retailers


Emerging businesses are being given the opportunity to establish themselves in West Melbourne via the West End Retail Kickstarter grant, with up to $150,000 on offer for successful applicants. Launched by Lord Mayor Sally Capp on October 10, and supported by the Trenerry Property Group, the grants offer tenancy opportunities for independent operators in the new West End precinct.  Seven spaces are available in Wominjeka Walk laneway – located below four apartment buildings – and the suc

he successful businesses will receive 12 months of ongoing support. Applicants can also apply for leasing support, in the form of reduced rents or a percentage rent arrangement, on top of the grant. 

According to Lord Mayor Sally Capp, retail vacancies in the CBD are still higher than she would like them to be, at 18 per cent. But she says that there has been a boost in foot traffic, which has been up on 2019 benchmark levels for 11 consecutive weeks. This, along with initiatives like the City of Melbourne’s Shopfront Activation Program, are fantastic opportunities to welcome retailers into the city, she says.

“Some people who have only had online businesses are trying bricks-and-mortar for the first time, and are having the experience of a shopfront and public interface. It’s been a wonderful opportunity for them to really experiment, explore and take risks. That’s what the Trennery Group is doing here,” Capp told Inside Retail.

“A lot of the feedback that we receive is that people have a new appreciation for the city, and everything that it has to offer. [I] think they’re also making the most of every opportunity.”

West Melbourne’s residential population is currently more than 7,600 people, and is expected to double within the next 15 years. As such, Capp says that when developers invest in successful placemaking, it benefits everybody.

“West Melbourne is really finding its own groove. [It] still has that industrial and commercial history, but is interspersed with some fantastic residential development, and that’s what liveability is all about. For residents to really feel a sense of community, there’s got to be activity at the ground floor level,” she said.

“Walkability, livability and shopability are very important to us [and] having retail, hospitality and entertainment spaces – including sculptures, green, open spaces and places for people to dwell – are really important to [building] successful communities.” 

A point of difference in the precinct

Trenerry Property anticipates that the activation of West End will complement the City of Melbourne’s post-Covid revitalisation plans within the CBD.

The property group director Robert Dicintio believes that the traditional leasing model hasn’t worked that well. He says this is a function of the elevated risk and cost associated with establishing new businesses. 

The Group has established the Kickstarter grant to supplement the traditional leasing process, and to help create a vibrant and exciting precinct with businesses that service the local community. 

Trenerry Group’s Robert Dicintio: Supplied

“We need to create a point of difference given we’re located between the CBD, Docklands and North Melbourne. [This is a] way of better sharing the risk between the landowner and the operator, ” Dicintio said.

He adds that there have been up to 50 inquiries, with six formal applications already lodged.

“Hopefully the [successful applicant of the] Kickstarter grants will go from a trial basis, to a long-term leasing process

“A win-win for everybody”

Capp believes that developers are aware of, and are looking to deliver, projects that include laneways, arcades and spaces like West End for people to enjoy.

“Delivering on areas like this is a win-win for everybody that sets us up for long term success. It isn’t about a flashy opening; it’s about actually investing in the long-term success of this neighbourhood,” she said.

“West Melbourne is an eclectic suburb that is rapidly transforming, and the West End Retail Kickstarter Grant will play a significant role in revitalising this wonderful pocket of the city.”

Applications for the West End Retail Kickstarter Grant will be reviewed by a panel of commercial and placemaking experts, to ensure they will deliver economic, social, and community benefits to the area. 


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