Shopping Centre-led regeneration: Middle-ring town centres and suburban regeneration
Regeneration is conventionally associated with inner-city environments. However the ageing of middle-ring suburbs has encouraged a new round of activities aimed at suburban regeneration, including mixed-use retailled regeneration focused on a town centre (Randolph and Freestone 2008; Ruming et a1. 2010; Newton 2010). Such strategies involve strengthening the town centre through master planning retail redevelopment, improvements to public transport and the public domain, and increasing the density of housing around the shopping centre and transport hub. In the Australian context, this overlaps with a thrust for polycentric cities (more recently Malcolm Turnbull's '30-minute city') driven by the use retail development as a lever for the formation or revitalisation of a town centre, creating financing vehicles for public infrastructure investment and public domain improvements, providing employment opportunities, increasing housing supply (including affordable housing), and transit oriented development. Mixed-use retail-led regeneration can involve main street-style retail revitalisation but also can be triggered by shopping centre redevelopment (Southworth 2005). Such regeneration can emerge as an opportunity presented by private centre developers seeking to expand and enhance their retail investments. The wider (and modest) literature and policy discussions around mixed-used retail-led regeneration have largely been conducted in general terms, outlining the policy logics and aspirations (Southworth 2005; Goodman and Coiacetto 2012). Generally lacking from this literature has been a careful appraisal of the importance of contextual specificities in which middle-ring regeneration is being mobilised (Ruming et a1. 2010). In this chapter, drawing on an analysis of attempts to induce the retail-led regeneration of Charlestown, a middle-ring suburb of Newcastle in NSW's Hunter region, we demonstrate the importance of contextual specificity to configuring the opportunities and limits of retail-led regeneration, particularly that focused on shopping centres. We show that, despite literature which tends to treat shopping centres as homogenous reflections of suburban development, they have specific connections to locally based patterns of retail development, population change dynamics, and transport developments. The types of regeneration that result may vary considerably across a city's middle-ring suburbs. Our analysis of Charlestown thus reveals the importance of more carefully considering the complexities of Australian cities' middle-ring suburbs and their regeneration.