26 April 2016
Experience from cities where light rail systems have been introduced suggest that rather than being anxious about the impact of construction, local businesses should look for the opportunities that can be created during this period and beyond.
Sydney is about a year ahead of the ACT in introducing light rail. A light rail route is currently under construction through the middle of the very busy Sydney CBD, including construction on the major thoroughfare of George Street.
“Many businesses are located on George Street,” Light Rail Business Link Program Manager, Ben Maguire said. “These businesses were understandably worried about the impact construction would have on them – particularly as it was scheduled to include the busy Christmas period.”
The NSW Government kept business informed about the project and worked with them on activation of the area.
Businesses located in proximity to the light rail construction in Sydney were provided with pop-up spaces where they could market their products to potential customers over the Christmas sales period and help draw them to their shopfront.
In addition, the NSW Government implemented a number of activities to draw people to the area, such as the erection of a large Christmas tree.
“Retailers along the light rail route we have spoken with have indicated construction did not negatively impact on sales in the end, despite their initial fears,” Mr Maguire said.
“Accommodation and hospitality businesses in particular can benefit from light rail. I was recently part of a delegation that travelled to the United States to explore urban renewal projects, particularly transit-oriented development.
“Tucson has had a light rail system running for two years ago. Since the city started planning a light rail system, there has been $1.5 billion worth of investment along the corridor.
“Two hundred new restaurants and bars have opened adjacent to the light rail route and 1,500 new jobs have been created,” Mr Maguire explained. “There are currently five new hotels under construction. Prior to this renewal project, there had not been a new hotel development in Tucson in 20 years.
“Occupancy rates for retail tenancy have increased from 50 per cent to over 90 per cent since light rail commenced operation in Tucson.”
The experience in Tucson highlights how vital it is for businesses to work with programs such as Light Rail Business Link.
Tucson established the Main Street Small Business Assistance Program to provide businesses with assistance to prepare for the impacts of construction.
“Businesses who engaged with the Main Street Program and prepared for impacts prior to construction were the best equipped during the actual construction phase,” City of Tucson Assistant City Manager, Albert Elias said.
Some of the initiatives implemented to assist businesses along the corridor included easing signage regulations so businesses could erect temporary signs to let people know they were open and drive traffic and trade through the door. A series of public service announcements encouraged residents to support businesses in the construction zone.
“By partnering with Canberra Business Chamber to establish the Light Rail Business Link Program, the ACT Government has demonstrated it wants to similarly help address potential impacts on Canberra businesses,” Mr Maguire stated.
“We are aware some local businesses along the proposed corridor are concerned about the effect construction will have, particularly in terms of customer bookings and experience,” Mr Maguire said.
The Light Rail Business Link Program is designed to act as a conduit between local businesses, the ACT Government and the prime contractor to limit and assist in managing any adverse impacts on local businesses from construction.
Business Continuity Workshops are being planned for hospitality and accommodation providers situated along the light rail route to explore concerns and discuss possible ways to minimise anticipated issues.
“We look forward to working with local businesses through the upcoming Business Continuity Workshops to ensure they get similar positive results as we have seen elsewhere and ensure predicted problems do not come to pass,” Mr Maguire said.
Any businesses with questions regarding light rail construction in the ACT can contact the Light Rail Business Link Program on 6247 4199.
Media Contact: Ben Maguire, Light Rail Business Link Program Manager 0439 423 891