Carlisle Street activation opening doors


Port Phillip Council is bringing new life to Carlisle Street with a $200,000 pop-up program aimed at filling vacant shopfronts with new businesses, creativity, and innovation.

Carlisle Street, Balaclava, one of Port Phillip’s most recognised high streets, is experiencing a downturn, largely linked to the COVID-19 pandemic.

To counter this, The Place Agency has been contracted by Council to activate at least five vacant properties, and a maximum of 10 at one time, over 12 months as well as developing a year-round calendar of events and promotional activities for Carlisle Street.

They will be working directly with the Carlisle Street Traders Association (CSTA), landlords, local stakeholders, and operators to implement the short-term pop-ups.

The project involves successful applicants paying a portion of the market value rent and any outgoings for the pop-up space. A $10,000 grant will be provided to each participant to uplift their space or help cover outgoing costs.

The Place Agency has successfully delivered a range of economic development initiatives to redefine, revitalise and improve commercial precincts.

These include the vacant shopfront program for Lygon Street, Carlton, which resulted in several tenancies being activated, including fashion stores, hospitality businesses and community service providers. The program also led to some businesses signing long-term leases for their spaces and improving the long-term vacancy situation on Lygon Street.

Mayor Marcus Pearl said the most recent Council audit showed the vacancy rate for Carlisle Street was running at 10 per cent (15 properties) on 30 June this year. “Carlisle Street is known and loved for its authentic ‘village feel’ and distinctive shops, from independent retailers to cosmopolitan cafes. Easily reached by tram and train, we are keen for more shops to open to give locals and visitors the best possible shopping and dining experience in the heart of Balaclava.”

Council provided $20,000 in seed money in 2021 to support the formation of the CSTA as well as $40,000 for its marketing and promotion over 2022/23. ”Traders across our City have been greatly impacted by the pandemic. This initiative is just one of the ways we are revitalising our City and our local economy,” he said.

CSTA President Igor Vainer (Vainer Optical) said the pandemic forced several traders to shut up shop. “The departure of several banks from Carlisle Street also left a big hole,” Mr Vainer said. “Our members welcome Council’s plan to revitalise our street. This is a win for traders and for our local community who can come and enjoy shopping at a vibrant street. Sometimes after a fire, there is new life and a new beginning.”

The Place Agency Managing Director Jack Amies said: “We are excited to partner Port Phillip Council and the CSTA in this fantastic initiative. Carlisle Street is the beating heart of Balaclava, with a unique retail experience that is rare to find anywhere else in Melbourne. The program offers significant benefits for shop owners and operators alike, and we look forward to delivering new concepts that will benefit Carlisle Street now and into the future.”

This latest activation initiative follows the success of the Renew Australia Fitzroy Street vacant shopfront pop-up project, now in its third year of being funded by Council and the Fitzroy Street Business Association.