Vacant Shopfront Activation Program a resounding success on Carlisle Street


Carlisle Street’s vacant shopfront activation program ended this month after a 12-month program that successfully activated several shopfronts with new businesses along the Balaclava retail strip.


The City of Port Phillip, in collaboration with The Place Agency, initiated a program to revitalise Carlisle Street. The “Shopfront Activation Program” involved filling vacant storefronts with short-term, pop-up businesses, complemented by a calendar of events and promotional activities organised by the council.

At the commencement of the project in October 2022, the vacancy rate on Carlisle Street was around 10-15%, with 15 vacant properties, some of which were in high-traffic areas and had been empty for a substantial period.

Additionally, there was an overrepresentation of specific retail typologies on the street, contributing to a lack of diversity and product offerings that were market fit for the emerging local demographic.

The Place Agency, led by Project Director Gregg Amies, partnered with the local Traders Association and the City of Port Phillip to engage landlords and potential businesses. The aim was to temporarily fill spaces and support them in transitioning to long-term leases.

The Place Agency had previously delivered a similiar program dealing with high vacancy rates on main streets, in Lygon Street, Carlton with much success.

By the end of the program, The Place Agency had secured 10 out of 15 properties, made 13 license offers to landlords, and activated five new businesses, halving the vacancy rate on Carlisle Street. Notably, four out of five businesses transitioned to long-term leases, becoming permanent fixtures on the street.

These businesses included ;

Vuelo Vintage – 234 Carlisle Street: Curated vintage streetwear pieces.
Neisha Clothing – 238 Carlisle Street: Ladies fashion label made ethically in Victoria.
Not Yours – 232 Carlisle Street: A Melbourne brand label specialising in streetwear fashion and accessories.
Storehouse – 283b Carlisle Street: Artisan lifestyle fine art store.
Peekabras – 238 Carlisle Street: Durable yet stylish bras and loungewear for every body.


With over 50 businesses applying to participate, the program has increased visibility for Carlisle Street as a destination for new brick-and-mortar stores, and the interest is creating traditional leasing competition in the area, with local leasing agents identifying an uptick in leasing enquiries.

Gregg Amies emphasised Carlisle Street’s unique atmosphere and retail amenities, were key attractors for prospective businesses.

“Carlisle Street has such a unique and eclectic vibe, yet also is flushed with great retail amenities such as Balaclava train station and multiple car parking options.” Gregg Amies, Project Director at The Place Agency.
“Our job was first to make prospective retailers aware of the street and its unique attributes and then to convince them of its potential. And when great retailer operators like Moonhouse (Commune Group) and All Things Equal are leading the way, it helps make our sales pitch much easier.”

The project also successfully onboarded Coles Group, a significant landlord with properties in high foot traffic areas, enhancing the street experience and securing an engaged partner early on.

Again, Gregg attributes the active participation of Coles Group in the program on Carlisle Street to being a significant component of its success.

“It was critical, given the significance of their tenancies in high foot traffic areas, that we convinced Coles to participate in the program. Getting their endorsement early on allowed us to have a much greater impact on the street experience and provided us with a very engaged partner who saw the value of what we were trying to achieve.” Gregg Amies.

The Place Agency also commended their partnership with the City of Port Phillip, particularly program manager Susie Filleti (Business Engagement Coordinator, City of Port Phillip), for their immense and ongoing support.

Looking ahead, The Place Agency is excited to observe developments in Balaclava and to see more entrepreneurs choose Melbourne’s Mainstreets to showcase their ideas and business visions.

For further information on the program or to inquire about implementing a Shopfront Activation Program in your area, contact Gregg Amies at gregg@theplaceagency.com