Council grant transforms long-vacant city centre building

Date published: 15 May 2023

A well known Townsville business owner is transforming a long-vacant building thanks to Townsville City Council’s public street art program and its Modernising Buildings and Activating Spaces grant.

Betty Blue & The Lemon Tart and Christo’s Deli owner Chris Christensen is taking on a new venture at 16 Stokes St, including a deli-café on the ground floor, a function room upstairs, and office spaces in the basement area.

Mr Christensen said he applied for Council’s Modernising Buildings and Activating Spaces grant when he acquired the building’s lease last July in a bid to make the space more attractive to foot traffic.

“We all know there are a number of buildings which could make the city safer with improved visibility and they could look nicer with minimal intervention,” he said.

“We had substantial renovations to our façade, but all of these buildings have massive potential. We have fixed our roofing and drainage, and we made the façade more structurally sound because it has quartz tiles that needed to be better supported. It’s all about beautifying the frontage and improving visibility and lighting for safety.

“Moving into the space is a mammoth undertaking, but we’ve had great outcomes with local tradies who have been so easy to work with to make it all happen.”

Mr Christensen said he was approached by Council’s public art team to consider adding a mural to the side of the building, with works on the 17m-long artwork now underway.

“I think it’s great when the community gets to see our phenomenal local artists and their work. I wanted the street art piece to celebrate the local environment, and I was able to select a winner from the short list of murals,” he said.

“The number of people coming into the city to do Council’s heritage walks and street art trail has increased. The side of our building is visible from Flinders Square (Bulletin Square) and I hope the mural will become an iconic piece of art for Townsville.”

The artwork titled Coolumbria – The Beauty of Dreaming has been designed and painted by local First Nations artist Nicky Bidju Pryor.

“This artwork showcases the native flora and fauna of our wonderful region,” Mr Pryor said of his artwork.

“Highlighting our place within country depicted by the subtle inclusion of the silhouette of Cootharinga, Castle Hill, and the dreaming of the rainbow serpent creating the land and life. The butterfly, Coolumbria, represents a freedom to move within our modern society and celebrate our traditional culture.”

Community and Cultural Development Committee chairperson Ann-Maree Greaney said Council was proud to support businesses across Townsville’s vibrant city.

“As a Council, we are committed to enhancing our tourism offerings and creating new landmark tourism destinations, including expanding our Street Art Trail. Our Street Art Trail has been studied by Griffith University’s School of Engineering and Built Environment and the Cities Research Institute, bolstering Townsville’s place as a globally-recognised arts city,” Cr Greaney said.

“Council has also established its City Activation and Jobs Growth Policy to generate investment and create employment opportunities for our city, which includes the Modernising Buildings and Activating Spaces grant.

“Seeing an established business owner like Chris take up the opportunity to expand his offerings here in Townsville is a vote of confidence for our city, backing Council’s vision of growing Townsville into a vibrant city centred around inclusive, connected neighbourhoods.”

Mr Christensen’s new businesses are expected to open this winter.

Mr Pryor’s artwork Coolumbria – The Beauty of Dreaming is open for the public to visit at 16 Stokes Street.

Visit our Street Art web page for more information.

Chris Christensen, pictured in front of Nicky Bidju Pryor’s Coolumbria, is breathing new life into 16 Stokes St thanks to a Council grant.
Caption: Chris Christensen, pictured in front of Nicky Bidju Pryor’s Coolumbria, is breathing new life into 16 Stokes St thanks to a Council grant.