News April 26, 2021

Live music central to revitalising Kings Cross, St. Kilda

Live music central to revitalising Kings Cross, St. Kilda
Kings Cross

will be central to the revitalising of the former red light areas of Sydney’s and Melbourne’s St. Kilda.

For Kings Cross, the new A Vision for Kings Cross report by the Committee for Sydney notes just how important live music is to the area’s heritage, appeal and future.

81% of surveyed residents wanted more live music venues in the area and 77% sought more theatres.

After more parks and gardens (82%), more live performance venues for music, cabaret, theatre, drama and comedy were the most desired for both residents and visitors.

The idea is to coordinate eating and drinking with seeing entertainment. For example, the 20+ theatres and music venues in Newtown/Enmore support over 200 local restaurants and bars.

There is room for more music venues in the precinct, with the report suggesting the repurposing of “the many struggling or boarded-up night clubs and adult entertainment venues in the area”.

A problem is the economics of these venues, with Vision For Kings Cross using the Enmore Theatre’s struggles as an example.

The 1,600-seat music and comedy venue is booked solid most of the year and generates nearly $50 million a year for nearby businesses.

“But for all its success, the venue itself rarely makes a reasonable rate of return on its capital. “It only survives at all because the cost of its construction was financed generations ago.

“If it didn’t already exist as a building, it would never be built today.

“The problematic economics of live performance explain why the private sector hasn’t built a large new venue in decades.

“It’s why most existing theatres are either in government ownership, are incentivised by planning and land use concessions, or, like the Enmore, are legacies of previous generations.”

To bring it back to the glory days of 20,000 visitors a night, the Cross needed to revitalise its day and night-time economy, the report said.

Last September, the NSW Government released its 24-hour Economy Strategy, which included a “neon grid” of 24-hour hubs across Sydney.

Kings Cross would be the first of these hubs.

This would include incentives in developments to provide new theatres and live venues, and trialling a single agency to centralise noise management and complaints instead of the current seven, to ensure “genuine grievances”.

“East Sydney could be our answer to London’s West End and I’ll be looking at these ideas more closely,” said planning minister Rob Stokes.

The report also recommended increasing the greenery of the area with pocket parks, converting unused retail space into co-working areas, and encouraging new developments to build throughways to side streets.

St.Kilda’s Esplanade Hotel

In a first step for Victoria, the City of Port Phillip adopted its four-year Live Music Action Plan which sees live music as essential for the area’s post-pandemic recovery and for its branding as “a city of music festivals”.

There’ll be more opportunities for younger and more experimental musicians, as well as for jazz, First Nations artists, opera, musicals, choirs and classical performance.

Further help will be given via funding, promotion and a council database of local musicians to help them get bookings, and encouraging collaborations with game developers and film production.

The plan calls for creating live music precincts in strips such as Fitzroy Street and the Esplanade in St Kilda, and ensuring clubs would be protected from inevitable noise complaints.

In turn, venues would play their part by keeping sound to reasonable levels and pre-empting problems with the positioning of sound systems, directional speakers and limiting devices.

The City will work with Music Victoria and the state government to change planning when the locations of the precincts are determined.

“We want to look after residents but we also want to support live music venues, and getting that balance right is what we’re all about,” Port Phillip mayor Louise Crawford said.

She adding that Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley precinct was one which got the balance right after being set up in 2006, and live music venues had grown 40% in number since.

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