Marketing Northbridge

It’s an entertainment precinct which is down on its luck. The most visible sign of that is, um, the signage. Barricaded shopfronts, peeling paint, old decaying signs. Not to say there aren’t some well-presented businesses; the Dome, Oliver’s Restaurant, The Elephant & Wheelbarrow, the Brass Monkey all have attractive street presentation. Yet well-established businesses like Kakulas Bros, the Greek Taverna, Nandos, Cinema Paradiso, The Re Store and Tony Barlow, have faded signs, missing letters and facades that signal neglect and indifference. To me, those businesses degrade the precinct; they have the capacity to lead and they don’t.

Without a strong commercial interest group or re-development authority there is only local government to rely on and the City of Perth probably have other planning priorities. Left to its own devices it will continue its slow decline as the City of Perth foreshore develops and the western suburbs snare all the stylish restauranteurs.

If you had a brief to market the area you would need the authority to compel businesses to conform to presentation standards. This would include making signage fit its surrounds. Ageing brick buildings can accommodate painted signage, but big tin signs just look crap.

From presentation standards you would progress to coherence and then ambience, events and promotion. Let me just deal with coherence. I’d create 4 destinations. The Backpacker’s Quarter, The Mediterranean Quarter, The Asian Quarter and the Arts Quarter (which would include fashion).

Now you have four identities you can build on, each in a defined area, each of which can be separately marketed. You’d theme each quarter; street furniture, signage, art and walk trails.

Yes, it’s possible. Yes, the government would need to spend some money. But without an intention to create a focus, the slow decline will continue.



  1. Don’t worry. Soon all of Northbridge will be Chinatown and then the run-down buildings and signage will look authentic =).

  2. Hahaha. You guys. Run-down means character and that’s good. It’s a fine line. What you don’t want is that harsh juxtaposition of lairy commercial and unkempt heritage.

    I think the Cultural Centre should be turned into an installation: Awkward Steps. Actually, it wouldn’t take much to turn it into an amphitheatre. A stage, probably. Then they could do poetry and such on a Sunday.

  3. There’s already performances there on Sundays. You can watch as the passers pretend not to see the Falun Gong protesters

  4. Had a look at the Vital Places site – community consultation would be an ideal starting point. I suspect the local businesses already know they have a problem but I doubt there is any agreement on how to proceed.

  5. The City of Perth is engaged in a range of activities in Northbridge, including significant financial support of the BIG N, a trader group that was established to market the precinct. One of the difficulties in the area is gaining widespread support among disparate businesses and lots of small private property owners, making it difficult to coordinate a broader strategy for building upgrades. The capital investment required from the private sector is probably awaiting some kind of firm commitment from a State Government regarding the future of the Northbridge Link project, which would create stronger links and new entry points to the area, particularly at the Western end of James Street. Some great work is being done by a group called for the local fashion retailers.

  6. And you would be the City of Perth Economic Development Officer? Thanks Sabian, you make a lot of sense. Great to see that you’re keeping on top of what’s being said on the net. Yes, the OnWilliam stuff is great and yes, what a mammoth job trying to get small businesses to agree.

    I guess what I’m saying is that (1) a vision for the area shouldn’t wait until there is money for building and (2) let’s apply some pressure to those whose signage and presentation drags the area down. Maybe if the business owners signed on for the vision they would be more inclined to cooperate with each other. Easy for me to say, I’m not at the coal face and I’m not across the Big N.

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