City CBDs were hammered by COVID-19. Will they make a comeback as life returns to normal?Posted by On

COVID-19 has smashed and changed the nation’s central business districts, but in her laneway gallery there’s nowhere else Sonja Ari would rather be.

“I told my partner, ‘We’ve got to go out’,” she says. “We’ve got to be out there and we’ve got to get people to see us.”

Together with artist Adrian Flor, her brand Awen sells locally-designed, Peruvian-influenced streetwear.

Alongside a popular online shop, the pair have just opened their first permanent store – in the heart of Melbourne’s busy Flinders Lane.

“Obviously, when you see it on you, you want to buy it,” Ms Ari says.

“Having a store and people seeing it and coming to chat, to mingle – they love us. So we love them, too.

“Online, it’s different. You see it and (think) ‘Yeah, that looks good’, but you might not buy it.”

Strength continues

Life has not been easy in the central business districts (CBDs) of our biggest cities, almost three years since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A largely empty Elizabeth Street, viewed from the tram tracks in the centre of the road.
A year ago, central business districts around the nation were suffering as people have stayed away from offices, mass transit and shopping centres due to COVID-19.(ABC News: Stephanie Ferrier)

Office occupancy rates are still below 2019 levels, overseas tourism is still lower than its peaks and a construction and renovation boom means some areas…

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