Melbourne CBD nights are again on tune

I love Melbourne. It’s the best city in the world. But COVID hasn’t been kind to our CBD and it’s becoming obvious that our recovery is taking longer than we hoped.

We know that Melbourne’s CBD has three different phases: Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday evenings, and the weekends. While the latter two are quickly returning to their former glory, it’s Monday to Friday 9 to 5pm that is still struggling.

Melbourne’s CBD is springing back to life, but only a certain times.Credit:Wayne Taylor

Data shows office occupancy in the CBD lags other capital cities and foot traffic remains well below pre-pandemic levels. While the rest of Victoria roars back to life, the CBD’s recovery has been patchy at best.

Before COVID, 500,000 people came to Melbourne’s center each day. The city contributed 7 per cent of Australia’s gross national product and 25 per cent of Victoria’s gross state product. Our world-class sporting and cultural events and iconic retail and hospitality sectors ensured we were regularly ranked as the world’s most liveable city.

According to the Economist, every office worker supports up to five other jobs such as baristas, waiters and hairdressers and these rely on the presence of people in the CBD. The city is our most important business, cultural and recreational hub and, until COVID, was the jewel in Victoria’s crown.

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It’s not for a lack of trying by the state government and City of Melbourne, which have pumped millions into programs like Melbourne Money to help rejuvenate our hospitality sector. Visit Victoria has also worked hard to secure a number of new major events including next month’s Brazil v Argentina blockbuster at the MCG.

But the CBD is not shining as bright as it can and this is impacting business particularly hard with shops either empty or completely vacant. Now, Adelaide and Perth sit above Melbourne in the rankings of the world’s most liveable cities.

But I’m over the constant negativity – these problems need to be addressed. We need to restore our city to its greatness, to regain the mantle as the world’s most liveable. The CBD matters and it’s a shared responsibility to not just revive it but reimagine it.