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Rolling up the shutters and getting down to business

Businesses in Redfern have been asked to roll up their infamous shutter doors – for good reports Philip Wen in the South Sydney Herald of December 2009.

The City of Sydney, Redfern Waterloo Authority (RWA) and the Redfern Waterloo Chamber of Commerce (RWCC) have joined forces to launch the Roll-Up Redfern campaign, urging business owners along Redfern and Regent Streets to remove shutter doors from their shop fronts.

“Shutter doors send out messages of insecurity, higher-than-average levels of crime, and the need for protection,” RWA Chief Executive Roy Wakelin-King explained. “Removing shutter and roller doors will acknowledge the revitalisation of the area to its current state and its exciting potential.”

The City, RWA and RWCC co-wrote a letter to business owners talking up business opportunities, citing the imminent arrival of Channel Seven at the Australian Technology Park and the approval of the Aboriginal Housing Company’s Pemulwuy Project concept plan as examples.

While the removal of shutters will be voluntary, RWCC President Mary Lynne Pidcock said she hoped business owners would support the cause and help demonstrate that Redfern’s stock was on the rise. Ms Pidcock said: “A very strong message that we think that we can give is ‘We will roll up the shutters’, and give the impression that Redfern is open for business, it is welcoming, it is on its way back – and we want to give that very strong message to everyone.”

The City of Sydney believes that improving the appearance of shop fronts will add to street appeal. Numerous shops along Regent Street have deteriorated after being vacant for long periods. “If a shop is vacant, owners can agree to artworks or aesthetically interesting products displayed in the shops, in a professional layout, so that the area regains a ‘live’ look and not a depressed, unengaged look,” a City of Sydney spokesperson said. “The idea is to create more vibrancy in the area, attract many more people and create more interest in renting or selling shops that are currently empty.”

And while the City says the majority of property owners support the Roll-Up Redfern campaign, some tenants require more convincing. “The one time we didn’t put our shutters down, we got broken into,” said Julie Nguyen, of Yen’s Vietnamese Cuisine on Regent Street. “It was only a few weeks ago.”

“Three times they broke in even with the shutter doors,” said Hazem Sedda, manager of Redfern Convenience Store on Redfern Street. “If we leave the shutter doors open, it will not be good. Insurance will be a lot higher without shutter doors – it’s already high in Redfern anyway.”

When asked for comment, the City of Sydney said their own enquiries to insurance companies indicated that insurance premiums should not be increased if the roller shutters are removed, and that alternative security measures were being discussed.

Mr Wakelin-King said that the area’s history of high crime and insecurity was a thing of the past and incongruous with the optimism of today. “We believe the perception about levels of security in the area is not currently reflective of reality,” he said.

Photo: Andrew Collis - Parichat (Anne) Chantarat of the Thai Square restaurant on Redfern Street

Source: South Sydney Herald December 2009