Leichhardt FAQ

What is Renew Leichhardt?

Commissioned by Leichhardt Municipal Council, Renew Leichhardt is a pilot initiative by Renew Australia to activate some of the currently underutilised spaces in Leichhardt through incubating short-term uses by creative enterprises and independent local initiatives on a rent-free basis.

Council sought interest from private property owners to activate their currently empty or underutilised spaces through temporary occupancy licence agreements with selected creative enterprises.

Renew Australia is now coordinating an Expressions of Interest campaign intended to attract a variety of proposals from enterprising creatives and other unique ventures with the initiative and potential to derive and deliver value through this rent-free commercial space opportunity.

Selected participants will use and maintain the spaces for a limited time while they might otherwise be empty.

Who is Renew Australia?

  • Renew Australia is a not for profit consultancy that brokers the activation of otherwise empty spaces through incubation of short-term uses by local creative enterprises and initiatives.
  • Renew Australia was established in 2011 as a national social enterprise to catalyse community renewal, economic development, the arts and creative industries across Australia. It works with communities and property owners to take otherwise empty shops, offices, commercial and public buildings and make them available to incubate short-term use by artists, creative projects and community initiatives.
  • Renew Australia is based on the intellectual property, experience, and case study pioneered by Renew Newcastle. In 2008, Renew Newcastle was established as a low cost DIY urban renewal scheme that has proved highly successful and generated significant media and community interest locally, nationally and internationally. Through a simple strategy based on the temporary and low cost creative activation of some of the more than 150 empty buildings in the Newcastle CBD, significant parts of Newcastle have been transformed. Less than two years later, as the direct result of Renew Newcastle’s activities, more than 80 new businesses and initiatives had been seeded, and Newcastle was hailed by Lonely Planet as one of the top 10 cities in the world to visit in 2011 due to the exciting, eclectic creative community that had been seeded there.
  • For more information about Renew Australia go to the website:

What is Renew Australia’s role?

  • Renew Australia negotiates with property owners to license spaces that are between uses and matches them with local creative initiatives to make use of the spaces while they are otherwise empty.
  • Renew Australia negotiates the participation agreements for approved projects, manages the short-term use of the spaces, covers public liability insurance, and provides induction, information and inspiration to support selected projects through the process.
  • Each individual project is responsible for preparing their space for the agreed use, and creating an appropriate fitout.

Why creative enterprises?

Simply, creative enterprises and projects are great attractors! They add interest, originality and life to a precinct. Importantly, by targeting artists, “makers”, and a diverse variety of people that produce their own original work, Renew Leichhardt will attract unique offerings by enterprises that will not compete with existing businesses in the area. These new creative enterprises will create interest and attract new visitors to Leichhardt.

How do the short-term licences work?

Renew Australia’s default agreement is not a lease but a licence. This permits access to the property on a rolling 30-day basis. Property owners can give 30-days’ notice at any time, which enables them to provide their property without sacrificing the potential commercial returns. This is one of the key reasons that properties are made available rent-free – and why this opportunity is best suited to creative enterprises wishing to experiment or test the viability of operating in a commercial space, not those who need the security of a lease.

As the initiative is based on temporary use, it is inevitable that projects will be given notice to vacate at some point. In the interim participants have the opportunity to incubate their own initiatives, simultaneously creating interest and activity in the area. There may be possibilities for fixed-term licences in the future, but projects are advised to plan on the basis of a rolling 30-day period of use.

How much do properties cost? Is it subsidised?

Renew Leichhardt trades lack of security for lack of rent. Selected projects will only be required to pay a minimal weekly participation fee to cover public liability insurance and minor maintenance. They may also be required to cover outgoings incurred by them being there, such as water and electricity usage.

All Renew Leichhardt agreements will have review periods built into them. If a participant develops a commercial business and then starts to generate profits similar to commercial standards, their contract terms may progress towards commercial rental standards.

An aim of Renew Leichhardt is to nurture projects that will eventually be able to operate commercially without further support, although not all projects are expected to be commercial. Not for profit projects that will bring activity to the area are also encouraged to apply.
What are the standard guiding principles for a successful Renew Leichhardt project?

It adds life to the area – This opportunity is intended to draw out and support creative people with the ideas, initiative, energy and potential to contribute to the life of the local community. Renew Leichhardt will favour projects most likely to add different layers of interest and activity (especially in high visibility retail spaces) and attract new visitors to the precinct. Activation of otherwise empty spaces should encourage longer-term commercial opportunities for surrounding businesses.

It is unique Renew Leichhardt is not about replicating other shops, or filling every space with the same type of business. This pilot project seeks to provide the growing community with a range of cultural and creative opportunities. Projects that showcase people making and presenting original work are ideal.

It has a high degree of professionalism or a very clear idea – Renew Australia will prioritise applications from individuals and enterprises that are serious about what they are doing and have a very clear idea of what they are trying to achieve. A shopfront (or office space) may not be the best place to start a new creative practice or business idea without relevant experience or a proven market; Renew Leichhardt is most suitable for those enterprises trying to take what they are already doing to another level.

It is ongoing but temporary Renew Leichhardt is seeking projects that will make ongoing use of the spaces for a minimum of 30 days. Renew Australia does not have the capacity to support creative enterprises to access space for single exhibitions or infrequent uses.

It is ready – Taking on a shopfront or opening an office or studio can be a major commitment. Renew Leichhardt is keen to support enterprises that are ready to take that step up and can demonstrate their commitment based on previous experience. Ideally, selected projects will have the capacity to move in and start making use of the space soon after their proposals are approved.

How does Renew Australia select projects for Renew Leichhardt?

First round expressions of Interest applications close on 8 November 2013 at 5.00pm AEDT. They can be lodged online via the application page. Shortlisted projects will be contacted by late November. 
When reviewing applications, Renew Australia will consider a variety of factors, including the standard guiding principles (see above). 

Projects proposals are assessed for their suitability to the available spaces in comparison to the other applications received. 
Projects will be prioritised based on how ready they are to proceed and how difficult they would be to achieve with the resources available. Renew Leichhardt will try to select projects that could make the best use of the available spaces and create a good mix of projects for any given area – so that projects closely located complement each other and the existing uses.

After receiving written submissions, Renew Australia will shortlist potential projects, meet with selected applicants to assess the proposals in more detail, match the proposed uses with available spaces, and consult with the property owners to make the final selections.

Have there been similar projects like this run before?

Yes! Find out more about Renew NewcastleRenew Adelaide, Docklands Spaces (Melbourne). There have been over 100 projects accepted through Renew Newcastle alone so far. If you’re looking for examples and inspiration see some of those projects here.

Can you help me access a specific building?

No. Renew Australia has negotiated access to a limited number of spaces in the Norton St precinct and the Italian Forum to be used for the Renew Leichhardt pilot.

What if I already have a business; can I move it to a cheap space?

No, not if it already has an existing lease or has been trading as a retailer. Proposals that involve relocating from a commercially-leased space are ineligible. Renew Leichhardt projects should not compete with established businesses or existing commercial tenancies in the local area. Projects and initiatives that are unique and do not directly compete with the existing operators will be given priority.

For example, an enterprise proposing to open a fashion retail store needs to demonstrate how they differ from existing businesses. However, if you make original design garments, bags, or jewellery, and you have no physical retail presence, you are welcome to apply – you’re exactly who we’re looking for! Similarly, if you’re a laptop freelancer who works from home (or remotely from anywhere) – or perhaps you’re contemplating moving into (or even setting up) a co-working space with other likeminded individuals – we encourage you to submit a proposal now!

Can I propose a single exhibition or do I need to take over a shop for a while?

No, one-off events or occasional uses are generally not a good fit for the Renew model of activation. Renew Australia is keen to hear from creative enterprises with short to medium-term plans that could be suitable to occupy a retail or commercial space in Leichhardt. Attractive uses would involve regular activity, operate for at least a month, and ideally have the intent to continue. This offers greater potential to contribute to the ongoing life of the local area, and is a better prospect for us.

For example, it is much easier for us to make a space available to an individual or collective that wants to run a gallery, and program a series of exhibitions, than it is for us to curate and organise exhibitions ourselves.

Can I live in a Renew Leichhardt property?


How can l apply for space?

A competitive EOI process will be promoted from Monday 21 October 2013 in various publications, forums and via social media. Brief proposals should be submitted via a simple online application form available on the Renew Australia website. If that doesn’t work for any reason you can access the form directly here.

Renew Australia may accept hard copy applications by request, if necessary. Email sydney [at] for information.

Can I send examples of my work or supporting material with my application?

Yes, the online application form allows web links and files to be included.

Renew Leichhardt is a Renew Australia initiative funded and supported by Leichhardt Council.