Apparently the MSIC is to blame for the vacant shops on Darlinghurst Rd, Kings Cross – how this is so, however, is unclear. The MSIC’s power to drive down business is never explicated except the oft-quoted remark that it is a “honeypot” for users (and therefore dealers too). Quite apart from the local police saying that it isn’t a honeypot, there are some issues with this analysis.
I find it difficult to work out how the MSIC apparently being a honeypot has led to more vacant shops on Darlinghurst Rd, and I don’t think any explanation has ever appeared in the press, other than the unsatisfactory, “it makes the area less attractive”.
However, I do know of some factors that are possibly more important to commerce in KX. One major change that has happened in the Kings Cross area in recent years is the conversion of many large hotels to residential complexes. Off the top of my head, I can only think of three major non-backpacker hotels still open in the area. (There are a number of small hotels, but they’re comparatively quite small.) There used to be many more, as any resident can attest to. Just up the road, the Sebel was torn down and is now apartments. The Manhattan was pulled down and is now apartments. And so on, and so on. My humble suggestion is that there are fewer tourists in the Kings Cross area now than there were six years ago.
A further piece of the puzzle is the change in the visibility of syringes in streets/gutters and footpaths since the MSIC opened. Before the MSIC opened, you had to watch out for (used) syringes all through Kings Cross. Now, it’s much more unusual to see one. It’s difficult for me to see the massive decrease in syringe visibility as a net negative for people wanting to visit Kings Cross.
A similar argument holds for people shooting up in public. This is now far less visible. A consequence of apparently fewer people shooting up in public is that there are now fewer ambulance sirens, which as any resident would attest, used to be very common.
it is difficult to assert that local amenity has got worse, and in fact, an independent 2005 survey showed that the vast majority (3/4) of local residents supported the MSIC, and about 80% of long-term residents supported it. The local amenity has improved. It’s hard to see how this has been a net negative on local businesses.
Of course, I could be completely wrong about these things. But the analysis provided by the opponents of the MSIC has not appeared plausible, and it appears that possibly more plausible reasons for the numbers of vacant shops include
(i) many fewer hotels in the area, probably leading to many fewer tourists (there appear to be fewer souvenir shops in KX and surrounding areas)
(ii) possibly increasing rents for shops – KX has many hotels and pokie rooms – perhaps landlords feel that the area can bear more licensed premises and charge rents accordingly. At the moment there are plans to increase the number of licensed premises in KX.
(iii) perhaps some shops that closed down didn’t meet the market… I’m thinking in particular of one dingy shop that was quite close to the MSIC that didn’t (to my memory) service current popular technologies in its area – one large company, which produces/processes the kinds of materials that this dingy shop did, has recently closed a factory in Victoria for possibly similar reasons.
We’ll have to see what happens. It would be nice if all the publicity about the MSIC was based on reality rather than (apparent) self-interest, but I feel that unfortunately my hope is fantasy-land. I’m sure that the Daily Telegraph (and possibly The Australian) will run more rubbish (crap is actually too nice a word to use) on the MSIC, and the Liberal opposition will unforunately sprout slogans rather than use reasoned arguments. I’m all in favour of using reasoned argument. I’m completely against garbagey selfish self-interest and slogans.