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McNamara Street's "bold" makeover is literally in tatters

March 11, 2023

Flags on McNamara Street promoting the makeover. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

By Peter Holmes

It was billed as a key plank of Orange City Council's "bright" and "bold" FutureCity project, and included a public square hosting markets, live music, outdoor cinema and exhibitions.

But when The Orange News Examiner visited McNamara Street in the CBD on Friday it bore little resemblance to what the city had been promised.

Instead, there were torn and faded flags, missing artwork and little foot traffic.

A banner promoting the FutureCity project. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

Council has described FutureCity as a "huge plan, full of many bright and bold ideas".

In an "attempt to re-vitalise Orange’s Central Business District" the FutureCity project aimed "to encourage more people to come to the Orange CBD and spend more time there, to build a CBD the people of Orange can be proud of".

In October 2020, seven months after the World Health Organization labelled Covid a pandemic, an Orange City Council statement said FutureCity involved "three years of projects ranging from business support such as website development, to large scale projects such as a mall in Anson Street and a community square in McNamara Street."

The mall in Anson Street was quickly abandoned following a public backlash about the towering plane trees that would have been lost in any redevelopment.

In the October 2020 statement councillor Tony Mileto said the McNamara Street community square "would liven and brighten the precinct. It will create an enhanced night-time economy where people can watch movies projected onto walls, hold markets and listen to live music".

“During the week the car park would remain as it is but on a weekend it would transform into a vibrant city centre free of cars," Mileto added.

“At a cost of about $500,000, this is a project which is relatively inexpensive for the huge impact it will have on the area.

“This will be a another space where the city’s small business owners can sell their products, our winemakers and produce makers can set up temporary markets, our artists can hold exhibitions and musicians hold an audience."

One of the murals has fared better. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.
One of the benches. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

Mileto said the city's "night-time establishments then reap the benefits as more people are out and about in the evening attending events in the McNamara square. These people then head out to dinner or for a drink at nearby restaurants, bars and pubs.”

Councillor Jeff Whitton was quoted as saying that although the design was in its final stages, it "would include new trees, vintage style, bud lights over the street, graphics on the road, much more greenery such as small gardens, pots and much more outdoor dining as well as public art, trellises, awnings and façade work".

Two-and-a-half years later, and the dream for a vibrant public square appears lost. Three flags flying along McNamara Street to promote the redevelopment are faded, and one is shredded. A banner to promote FutureCity has seen better days.

The McNamara Street overhaul included the installation of wooden benches, lighting strung across parts of the car park, the addition of two shipping containers to be used as pop-up shops, artwork and murals.

Catherine O'Donnell's "Beyond the Walls" has gone, but explanatory plaque remains. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

"Beyond the Walls" as it was meant to be. Photo: Catherine O'Donnell /

The artwork had begun to peel recently. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

The wooden benches are in need of a lick of varnish and a bit of TLC.

A commissioned Catherine O'Donnell artwork that featured a fake door and window has been ripped off a wall, although a plaque commemorating the piece - with a QR code for more information - remains.

The bright murals have held up well, but there is no public square. There is no artwork on the road. On weekends, there are no markets, no live music, no exhibitions, no producers selling their wares, no giant mural across the side of the Hive building.

The shipping containers have been rented at times, but not at others.

The permanent tenants along McNamara Street include music and entertainment venue The Blind Pig, recording studio The Dotted Eight, L&J Churchill Mechanical Repairs, The Grocer & Co. Organics, the ALDI car park, a pilates studio and the Salvation Army Church.

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Peter Holmes



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