With eCommerce expanding every day, it would be easy to believe that the days of local markets may soon draw to a close.

But in fact, the opposite is true. Since the unshackling of COVID-19 lockdowns, Australians are rediscovering the charm of buying homegrown products from local producers. We are seeing farmers markets, craft fairs, pop-up stalls, school fetes and night markets make a triumphant return to public spaces, and resume their traditional role in public life.

Historic venues like Melbourne’s Queen Victoria Market, Sydney’s Fish Market and Hobart’s Salamanca Place are being actively upgraded by both business and government, in an effort to keep up with demand.

As property developers, we know just how much community means to people – and the importance of inclusive public spaces to make this happen. It’s why we’re working hard to bring to life a new mixed-use precinct at 21-53 Hoddle Street in Collingwood.

But for now, it remains an unused car dealership building, spanning more than 5,000 sqm of empty space in the heart of Collingwood.  

With a big, transitory space on our hands, we decided: why wait to create something special?

Making a market with heart

After acquiring a development site in Collingwood, UEM Sunrise wanted to find a way to support the wonderful artisans, artists, chefs and musicians that call the eclectic suburb home, as well as other passionate producers across the state.

So, we teamed up with ‘Bourne Local to host the Collingwood Artisan Market, on the last Sunday of every month for the rest of 2022. Our once-empty site will be filled with the best of Victoria, with more than 100 stalls featuring homegrown crafts, fashion, homewares and produce. Local music acts, gourmet food trucks and a disco roller-skating rink complete the great day out.

As ‘Bourne Local founder Dean Zepherin, puts it “Small businessowners are truly the unsung heroes of our economy, accounting for the vast majority of Australian businesses. Many of our stallholders at the Collingwood Artisan Market are people who have given up on a full-time salary to pursue their passions. At ‘Bourne Local, we celebrate these Victorians every month by bringing them together to showcase their work to the community. We look forward to introducing homegrown and handpicked products to everyone who visits the upcoming Collingwood markets.”

We’ve supported our communities before – and make it our mission to do so again and again

As property developers, we have a role to play in weaving the local social fabric, creating a sense of inclusion and belonging, and supporting the people who call the area home.

So we’re making sure we connect with our local communities from the moment we become part of them.

As we acquire sites, plan and develop, we ask ourselves: how can we make a lasting impact? Or in this instance, how can we put this building to use while we’re undergoing planning processes?

It’s what we did in the thick of the pandemic, when more than 100,000 international students were stranded in Melbourne due to border closures. We activated our available prime retail space in our flagship mixed-use development, Aurora Melbourne Central.

In partnership with Foodbank Victoria, Melbourne’s very first International Student Pop-Up Grocery Store, we provided free fresh food and supplies to international students who were experiencing food insecurity due to the pandemic. With a supermarket style fit-out, we offered an innovative and dignified version of food relief, which mirrored a traditional grocery shopping experience.

The grocery store provided vital supplies to students from more than 50 countries and 100 different learning institutions over the year.

Our latest Collingwood Market event will be different again – a way to celebrate local inner-city culture, support Victorian businesses and bring a community together.

But both cases are proof that burgeoning property developments can quickly become lively gathering spaces where retail can thrive, people’s livelihoods can improve, and a meaningful and memorable experience comes to life. Property developers have the potential to transform sites awaiting development into activated retail, cultural or lifestyle precincts all over the country. At UEM Sunrise, we’re proud to be leading the way with such exciting initiatives, which make a vast difference to the wider community. So, visit our Collingwood site and see it come to life – and best of all, support a raft of Victorian businesses while you’re at it.

The Collingwood Artisan Market will take place from 11am-4:30pm the last Sunday of every month, starting from July 31 2022. Entrance is free. For more information, please visit https://bourne-local.com.au/collingwood-market/  

Ong Chee Wei is director of UEM Sunrise in Australia.