The Maitland Levee project, in regional New South Wales, demonstrates how a carefully considered and high quality public realm project can transform the economic, social and environmental fortunes of a place. The historic High Street Precinct at the heart of Maitland had been in decline for a decade due to competition from suburban shopping malls. The evidence provided regarding the number of vacancies in the retail tenancies before and after the intervention—from 50% in 2010 to all tenancies being filled—is compelling.
Some car access to the pedestrian mall was introduced to increase activity and access. This plus the introduction of a constrained and high-quality palette of materials in the street to let the heritage buildings of the street ‘sing’ has created an attractive destination for shopping, spending time and sampling the produce of the region. An approach of long-life, loose fit, enabling car parking spots along the street to be given over to outdoor dining as the opportunity arises, has been a successful strategy.