Get to know the trader groups working behind the scenes to support local businesses and showcase the best of Melbourne’s retail, culinary and visitor economies.

When it comes to running a business in your local neighbourhood, collaboration helps create a sense of community and attract loyal customers.

Across the municipality, 10 business precinct associations are hard at work creating a strong network between local businesses.

Explore these stories for a taste of what’s on offer in your local precinct:

Funding for local precincts

Applications are now open for funding for precinct associations through the Business Precinct Program. And find out how to join your local business precinct association.

Alfresco feasts, excellent coffee and Italian events in Carlton


Espresso and outdoor Italian feasts add to a vibrant street life that attracts visitors from all over the world, according to Carlton Inc president Sergio Alderuccio.

“Many of Carlton’s businesses are iconic,” Sergio said.

People eating at outdoor dining areas with sun umbrellas and greenery
Outdoor dining at Brunetti in Carlton

Think of the cakes at Brunetti, or the deli at King & Godfree. A bowl of classic pasta at University Cafe or Tiamo, or sharing a pizza at DOC and Di Stassio Pizzeria. Maybe even a pick-me-up at Fossey’s Distillery.

“The alfresco dining really sets Lygon St apart. There’s a wide variety of food and excellent coffee, with a strong Italian influence.”

Carlton Inc runs quarterly networking events to foster community among traders and share information. It also attracts big crowds with the epic Italian Festa and car shows.

It also advocates to government where local businesses have concerns.

Nine people meet to talk at a cafe, drinking coffee around cafe tables
Lord Mayor Sally Capp discusses safety in Carlton

New safety cameras, for example, will soon be installed in Carlton to deter antisocial behaviour, through a collaboration between Carlton Inc, Victoria Police, City of Melbourne and the Victorian Government.

Keep an eye out for a new local farmer’s market, designed by Carlton Inc to attract more visitors and encourage them to explore the precinct.

A new wave of visitors for Chinatown


Inspiring the next wave of visitors to Chinatown is the remit of Melbourne Chinatown Business Association president Christina Zhao.

She wants to attract people who are looking for hidden bar culture, karaoke and the unexpected.

Grand archway at entrance to Chinatown with lights and lanterns glowing in the evening
Melbourne’s Chinatown

“We know people come to Chinatown for dumplings, and there are also very cool hidden rooftop bars and many other interesting reasons to come to here.”

While exploring new terrain, Melbourne Chinatown Business Association also firmly respects elements of traditional Chinese culture, such as the Museum of Chinese Australian History.

Chinese lanterns over a public square in Chinatown at night
Outside the Chinese Museum in Chinatown

“We want Chinatown to be busy all the time, from Monday to Sunday from brunch to dinner.”

“If we can help the local businesses and help the economy, that’s something we really need to focus on.”

Our city’s laneways abound with small businesses


All roads lead to the central city, according to City Precinct president Chloe Beevers.

“While most think the City Precinct is all corporate and mega stores, actually small businesses make up 74 per cent of Melbourne’s trader network,” Chloe said.

Royal Arcade in Melbourne with festive performers entertaining shoppers
Royal Arcade in Melbourne’s CBD

It’s in the small streets and lanes that seekers will find creative and bespoke small businesses.

Traders’ association City Precinct celebrates the small businesses of the CBD, which together form a “string-of-pearls of distinct experiences” that inspire the city, according to Chloe.

“Hundreds of small trader stories become a point-of-difference for the city. They provide an ant-track of experiences for local residents, office workers, suburban visitors and others in the CBD.”

City Precinct president Chloe Beevers looks out at city skyscrapers
City Precinct president Chloe Beevers

The aim is to build a strong community of small businesses in our laneways and city centre, and creatively support them to thrive.

“City Precinct is the glue that brings together the niche, local and independent retailers throughout the CBD.”

The association connects small businesses, runs talks, education and networking events, and updates traders on current issues.

Visitors and a tour guide stand in front of colourful street art
Visitors with a tour guide explore a laneway near Degraves Street

It also helps stimulate trade with free walking tours, Christmas programming and events such as sketching tours, city discovery tours and photography tours.

Only on Collins, from the Paris end to the waterfront


Stretching all the way from the Paris end in the east to Docklands in the west is Melbourne’s most prestigious address: Collins Street.

This chic address is home to luxury retail brands, high-end accommodation and critically acclaimed restaurants.

Luxury brand shopfront on Collins Street glows with the word FENDI
Collins Street. Photo: Arianna Harry

It’s also a base for homegrown businesses, world-class entertainment and global business services, according to Collins Street Precinct Group president Luke Harris.

A man in a suit jacket and Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp at an outdoor table in Collins Street with an accordion player
Luke Harris with Lord Mayor Sally Capp Photo: Carmen Zammit

“We are proud to offer unique experiences for locals and visitors alike,” Luke said.

Since 1993, the Collins Street Precinct Group has been celebrating the distinctively old and new businesses of Collins Street and its elegant neighbours, Little Collins Street and Flinders Lane.

“Whether you live or work in the CBD and visit every day or you’re visiting Melbourne for the first time, you’ll find the best of Melbourne, only on Collins.”

The precinct association helps traders increase their brand exposure, connect with audiences and each other through a monthly newsletter, website and social media exposure.

Moulin Rouge performers in colourful costumes outside the Regent Theatre
Luke at the Regent Theatre during Moulin Rouge

It also organises seasonal shopping events, and access to exclusive experiences.

“Coming up is a precinct-wide partnership with Chicago the Musical, where all our members have an exclusive opportunity to create special themes and offers for the show.”

Unique coastal experience on the city doorstep in Docklands


A unique coastal experience with soul beckons those who live, work and play in Docklands, according to Docklands Chamber of Commerce president, Daniel Hibberd.

Waterfront with boat and bridge
Docklands waterfront and the Lady Cutler showboat

“Docklands is a cultural and event hub, hosting festivals, markets, exhibitions and performances throughout the year,” Daniel said.

A diverse mix of residential, commercial, retail and recreational spaces combine to create an urban waterfront neighbourhood with a difference.

The District Docklands

Through the Docklands Chamber of Commerce, local businesses make the most of it through major events and storytelling activations.

“Events such as the Melbourne Boat Show, Diwali celebrations and Firelight Festival attract crowds and showcase Docklands’ vibrant community spirit.”

Firelight Festival in Docklands

A new project, the Soul of Docklands, is designed to embrace the community and create a sense of belonging through storytelling.

“The Soul of Docklands will spotlight the individuals and businesses that add character to the Docklands precinct.”

A man in a suit and open collar smiles. Trees In the foreground, public sculpture with a cow up a tree, Docklands and the harbour and trees in the background
Daniel Hibberd in Docklands

Activations such as Christmas events, a new gift card program, web and social media promotions, competitions, advertising and networking opportunities are all part of the package.

“The Docklands Chamber of Commerce contributes to the life of the city through economic development, community engagement, cultural diversity, tourism and visitor attractions and through advocacy and development,” Daniel said.

Epic street parties and iconic culture in the Greek Precinct


Lonsdale Street has been a haven of Greek culture since tens of thousands of Greek immigrants arrived in Melbourne in the 1940s post World War II.

New Melburnians flocked to Lonsdale Street to connect with familiar food at affordable prices, music, language, newspapers and friendship while they looked for work.

A big crowd gathers at dusk for Antipodes Greek Festival
Antipodes Festival in the Greek Quarter

Over the years, the Greek Quarter has evolved with new delis, small businesses, cafes and restaurants popping up on Heffernan Lane and Waratah Place, and round the corner to Russell Street.

Every year, up to 70,000 visitors flock to the precinct for the Antipodes Festival. It’s the world’s largest celebration of Greek culture outside of Greece.

It’s an epic event organised by the Greek Quarter business precinct association.

Greek performers in traditional dress at the Antipodes Festival in a city street
Antipodes Festival in Lonsdale Street

This local trader association advocates for beloved local businesses such as Tsindos and Stalactites, many of which have been managed by the same Greek families since the 1960s and ’70s.

As part of our program of support for precinct associations, City of Melbourne has been working with the Greek Quarter to support and enhance trade in the area.

Bespoke low-rise screens, irrigated rosemary planters, artwork, iconic blue and white umbrellas and upgraded paving are all part of the plan to enhance the precinct and attract more visitors.

Village feel and community events in Kensington


A mix of families, young professionals, students and long-time residents help to cultivate a diverse village feel for Kensington. And that’s good for business.

“Kensington has a strong sense of community,” Ross Surace said. He’s the president of the Kensington Business Association.

This local trader group encourages people to discover the village, explore its back streets and connect with neighbours and local businesses.

A crowd gathers at a community market in Kensington
Street market in Kensington

“Kensington’s local businesses contribute to the economic vitality of Melbourne. We are about our local businesses and community groups,” Ross said.

Shops, cafes, restaurants and home-based businesses are among the members offering up the good stuff to residents and visitors.

“Our annual Discover Kensington Christmas Market and Fair is a highlight, bringing residents and businesses together for a day of celebration with music, food, entertainment and free fun.”

A man in a brown shirt and check scarf talks and uses his hand for emphasis
Ross Surace

Keep your eyes out for a new street festival currently being dreamt up by the association to attract visitors and locals to Kensington.

Members can also boost their profile through Discover Kensington’s business directory.

And get access to resources on topics such as the circular economy and mental health, a local gift card program, and free photography and video services.

A street performer in bunny ears with a basket, and another in a bunny suit, smile at a baby on a city street
Surprise and delight in Kensington

K-pop and Little Korea street flavour in City North


A little pocket on the northern edge of the CBD is making a name for itself as Melbourne’s unofficial Koreatown.

All the bustle of Seoul comes to Healeys Lane as the Little Korea Street Festival fills the laneway with K-pop and tasty food stalls.

It’s all part of the plan to help local businesses enhance the neighbourhood’s burgeoning cultural vibe, according to Melbourne City North Business Precinct Association president Kevin Yim.

“Everyone was singing along, dancing along with favourite K-pop dance crews.”

K-pop dancers in jeans and white tops perform for a crowd in the rain
K-pop dancers at the LIttle Korea Street Festival

Look out for regular festivals and cultural gatherings designed to showcase local talent and cuisine, and foster community spirit among local residents, workers, visitors and students on campus at nearby universities.

“Through our events, festivals and workshops, we foster social cohesion. We bring people together, create shared experiences, and strengthen the sense of belonging in the city.”

The precinct offers funding, marketing and social media expertise, support with events, regular newsletters and networking to foster connection between businesses.

“By joining our association, local businesses tap into these resources and opportunities to grow, connect with the community, and access support that can help them thrive in our precinct.”

Live music and high spirits in North and West Melbourne


Community spirit is high when live music fills the streets of the inner north-west.

In a neighbourhood packed full of arts and art lovers, community events give locals and adventurers alike an added excuse to gather.

A performer with pink earrings and an orange striped hat holds a saxophone outside a Victorian-era building
Live at Errol performer in North Melbourne

For the North and West Melbourne Precinct Association, events such as Live at Errol are a chance to show off the precinct and connect local traders with the community.

“North and West Melbourne is a unique corner of Melbourne,” association president Sylvia Hungria said.

“Our precinct is a hidden gem with a bustling food scene, independent galleries, boutique retail and some of Melbourne’s finest coffee roasters and pastry makers.”

People walking a dog past a civic building on Errol Street in North Melbourne
Errol Street in North Melbourne

The association supports local businesses through storytelling, social media, networking and advocacy.

It collaborates with the local newspaper on a printed directory and walking guide that is distributed locally and to strategic tourist hubs around the City of Melbourne.

A tram passes street art of Australian native birds, bugs and flowers
Street art in North Melbourne

The association also works with traders and residents to shape the future of the neighbourhood.

A lively new community activity, the IRREGULAR Festival, will be added to the local events calendar in May.

Sylvia Hungria

“IRREGULAR will highlight the unique character and needs of North and West Melbourne, making it a significant event for the community and local businesses.”

Riverside lights up with action on the lower Yarra


The riverside is a natural meeting place for Melburnians and visitors alike, according to Yarra River Business Association president Jeremy Vincent.

“No longer do people meet ‘under the clocks’. They meet on Southbank.”

Southbank and reflection of Southbank high-rise buildings in he Yarra River - Birrarung at night
Southbank and the Yarra River – Birrarung

In the coming years this natural meeting place will be even more attractive to visitors as the north bank is revitalised by the Greenline Project, the nearby arts precinct expands, and more open space is created.

The Yarra River Business Association feeds into these big plans and more, representing the interests of small to medium businesses found on and along the river.

Many are tourism and hospitality businesses along the Southbank promenade and South Wharf, but the association’s influence extends throughout the neighbourhood.

RISING Festival lIght show on the Yarra River – Birrarung

“We are Melbourne’s hub of tourism and recreation,” Jeremy said.

It’s through the association that the lower Yarra business community has real input into local planning by organisations involved with river governance, including City of Melbourne.

While the Birrarung turns on the charm for residents and workers year-round, major events such as Moomba, Christmas Festival and RISING Festival attract extra visitor attention to the riverfront.

That gives businesses a chance to make and keep new friends.

“We look forward to the release of the RISING festival program every year, to see what is going to light-up winter on the river.”

Grants for business precincts

The Business Precinct Program provides annual financial support to recognised precinct trader associations representing businesses in consumer-relevant areas of the municipality.

Recognised associations with 300 or more members can apply for up to $120,000 to invest in administration, business activation and funding for marketing activities.

Applications close 26 April 2024.


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