The reputation of Perth’s central business district as an after-dark dead zone may be about to get a shakeup.
While St Georges Terrace has for years been so quiet once the office workers head home that it would not be amiss to see a tumbleweed roll on by after 9pm, the redevelopment of the infamous hole in the ground at Westralia Square has created an opportunity for a nightlife mecca.
Along with the 46-storey BHP Billiton tower, which will become Perth’s tallest building, the City Square development opposite Central Park is expected to include an upmarket fine dining and retail precinct based around the heritage buildings facing St Georges Terrace.
There is even talk of the site being the ideal location for a Perth version of hip Sydney hotspot Establishment, which combines a flagship fine-dining restaurant and main bar in a magnificent heritage building with a garden bar, private lounge bar, sushi bar and a two-level nightclub.
While City Square may be several years from fruition, it is one of the latest signs that St Georges Terrace is undergoing a renaissance that should result in more buzz in the city centre.
A short distance away, on the former Toys ‘R’ Us site, work is well under way on the Century City office tower and retail complex. Terrace workers will soon be able to nip down the street in their lunch hour to get their groceries from anchor tenant Woolworths, browse at one of about 30 specialty stores or catch up with a friend for a bite at the centre’s planned cafe court.
Lease Equity managing director Jim Tsagalis said the dynamics of the main business strip were changing in response to an increasing population of workers and inner-city residents.
“The City of Perth has had a paradigm shift in how it views St Georges Terrace, in that they are more accommodating of retail,” he said. “We are now (getting to the stage) where we will have a night trade. Things are getting a bit more sophisticated.”
Mr Tsagalis said the State Government’s encouragement of more small bars and its willingness to consider deregulated trading hours were also an impetus.
“Another significant issue is that we have a favourable Australian dollar so that means the retailers are buying their products well,” he said. “They are getting more for their money.”
But Curtin University professor of cultural studies Jon Stratton said Perth still had a long way to go before it became a truly cosmopolitan city.
While it had become easier to hang out with colleagues after work and enjoy a glass of wine, there was still a lack of depth in the theatre, music and general cultural scene.
“There is a sense that we are still a very large mining town,” Professor Stratton said.
“We don’t have a large class of people who are interested in those kinds of entertainment."