From the CEO’s Desk

Activating City Centres & Mainstreets


I’m often asked to share my views on how best we activate our city centres and mainstreets. This is not a short answer.

Over many years, at Maras Group, and in my broader board and committee roles with organisations such as the Property Council, the Adelaide Economic Development Agency, Renew Adelaide, Mainstreet SA, the East End Coordination Group, the Institute of Place Management and Project for Public Places, I’ve learned from many great people working in these spaces and now provide a snapshot of my views and learnings.

Activating a city centre involves a multi-faceted approach that integrates urban planning, community engagement, economic development, and cultural enrichment.

A vibrant city centre serves as the heart of a community, attracting residents, visitors, and businesses alike. Here are some strategies to activate a city centre and foster its vitality:

  1. Mixed-Use Developments: Encourage mixed-use developments that combine residential, commercial, retail, and cultural spaces within the city centre. This creates a 24/7 environment with a diverse range of activities and ensures that there is always foot traffic and energy in the area.
  2. Pedestrian-Friendly Infrastructure: Prioritize pedestrian-friendly infrastructure such as wide sidewalks, pedestrian plazas, bike lanes, and well-lit streets. Creating a safe and accessible environment encourages people to walk, cycle, and explore the city centre, rather than relying solely on motor vehicles.
  3. Public Spaces and Green Areas: Develop public spaces and green areas within the city centre, including parks, squares, and waterfronts. These spaces provide opportunities for relaxation, recreation, and community gatherings, fostering a sense of belonging and civic pride.
  4. Cultural Programming: Organize cultural events, festivals, concerts, art exhibitions, and performances in the city centre. Cultural programming attracts visitors, stimulates local businesses, and enriches the cultural fabric of the community.
  5. Support Local Businesses: Provide support and incentives for local businesses to establish and thrive in the city centre. This includes offering grants, tax breaks, and assistance with permits and regulations. A diverse mix of locally-owned shops, restaurants, cafes, bars and boutiques adds character and authenticity to the city centre.
  6. Pop-Up Markets and Food Trucks: Encourage pop-up markets, food trucks, and temporary retail spaces to activate underutilized areas of the city centre. These temporary activations can generate excitement, draw crowds, and test the viability of new business concepts.
  7. Street Art and Public Installations: Embrace street art, murals, sculptures, and other public art installations to enhance the visual appeal of the city centre. Artistic interventions can transform mundane spaces into vibrant and engaging destinations, attracting locals and tourists alike.
  8. Community Engagement: Involve residents, businesses, community organizations, and other stakeholders in the planning and activation of the city centre. Solicit input, gather feedback, and collaborate on initiatives that reflect the diverse needs and aspirations of the community.
  9. Transportation Options: Improve public transportation options to facilitate access to the city centre and reduce reliance on private cars. This may include expanding bus routes, enhancing tram/train systems, and investing in alternative modes of transportation such as bike-sharing and electric scooters.
  10. Safety and Security: Prioritize safety and security measures to ensure that people feel comfortable and secure in the city centre. This includes adequate lighting, surveillance cameras, police patrols, and partnerships with local law enforcement agencies.

By implementing these strategies, city leaders, urban planners, and community stakeholders can activate a city centre and create a dynamic and thriving urban environment that benefits residents, visitors, and businesses alike.

A vibrant city centre not only serves as an economic engine but also fosters social interaction, cultural exchange, and quality of life for all members of the community.
It is these principles and more that we work by in activating all the areas that we invest in.

Best, Always

Steve Maras
Group Managing Director & CEO
Maras Group (Aust) Pty Ltd