EXCLUSIVE

Cheers to that: trend-setting street dining parklet arrives in Macksville

Many hands made it happen: Artist Paul Miller, Forestry Corporation's Ryan Ellis, Council's Keith Williams, Matt Leibrandt, Grant Nelson and Jack Edwards
Many hands made it happen: Artist Paul Miller, Forestry Corporation's Ryan Ellis, Council's Keith Williams, Matt Leibrandt, Grant Nelson and Jack Edwards

A trendy new initiative just sprang up in Macksville this morning.

Anyone travelling down Wallace St today would have discovered the street dining parklet stationed outside Cafe Cha Cha - the moveable sidewalk extension with its fresh design brings the flavour of Melbourne cafes to Macksville.

But while it appears to have mushroomed overnight, the parklet was actually a two-year labour of love.

Council's Matt Leibrandt and Grant Nelson had seen the idea being used in trend-setting cities like New York and Sydney, and thought it could be an initiative easily incorporated into the post-bypass revitalisation of Macksville.

They sourced a shipping crate and some boys from the depot - Dave Nash, Craig Mills and Neale Howle - went to work taking the top half off.

"We liked the idea of a shipping container because you can pick it up and move it around," Grant said, thanking Fortade for their help in doing just that.

The crew had to be careful to avoid the overhead electrical wires when manoeuvring the parklet into place this morning

The crew had to be careful to avoid the overhead electrical wires when manoeuvring the parklet into place this morning

The Men's Shed in Macksville did some extra metal work on it before Dan Welsh from Beyond Expectations fitted the inside out with wooden decking and booth seats.

The decking timber was donated by Forestry Corporation after a resourceful salvage from a flood in the Boral yard at Murwillumbah.

And more bench seats, a table, and stools were fashioned from the old Lanes Bridge timbers by local artist Paul Miller and council's Jack Edwards.

Grant Nelson with Jack Edwards and Paul Miller

Grant Nelson with Jack Edwards and Paul Miller

"They saw the work I did with the sculptures at Nambucca and needed an extra hand," Jack said.

"And I'm pretty excited to show the community what I'm capable of."

Jack also attached wooden foot rails which help give the inside a bit of structural integrity.

Metal poles and shade sails were also attached to provide the perfect latte-sipping comfort. Before Paul finished the pod off with a collage of scrap aluminium metal signs he'd salvaged from the council depot, sealing the post-industrial chic aesthetic.

"This all came about through what we could find - it was a big project in recycling," Paul said, who specialises in using recycled materials.

And Paul was "stoked" to be able to see the finished product tentatively craned into place early this morning.

"It's good to be able to see it out and about finally because it's been an epic thing." he said.

Although fires, floods and a pandemic hampered the progress of the project, the timing of the reveal works perfectly to help local cafes struggling with the new rules around seating restrictions and social distancing.

The parklet looks to be able to sit around 10 to 15 people comfortably.

"And it also offers more space for takeaway customers to wait for their orders," Grant said.

The parklet will be stationed outside Cha Chas for three to four months before being moved on to another local cafe.

The cost came in at around $10,000 in the end, and Grant and Matt said the next few months will be a trial to see if it's worth replicating the idea for other towns.

"I'll know it's a success when I see it full of people," Matt said.

But there are other factors to consider besides the warm embrace of customers, like whether it will be able to stand up to vandalism, and whether people can cope with the temporary loss of one more parking spot.

The parklet will stay at Cafe Cha Cha for three to four months before moving on to another local cafe

The parklet will stay at Cafe Cha Cha for three to four months before moving on to another local cafe

Cha Cha owner Karen Bodycote said the reception by the community this morning was nothing but positive.

"It's creating a real buzz, and everyone has really positive things to say about it," she said.

Someone said it's got a real Melbourne vibe. And the yoga crew have already said they'll come and take it over every Saturday.

"It's definitely helpful because people are wanting a bit of outdoor space right now. And you may be outside, but you also feel protected, which is great.

"When they asked me if I was interested in having it I was so excited - I think this is giving Macksville a real lift, it's something to modernise it."

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