Ten years ago the Penrith CBD Corporation was formed. Little did anyone know at that time, Penrith was about to embark on an incredible transformation. You only need to take a five minute drive or a half hour walk around the city to see it has improved by leaps and bounds over the past ten years. What was once thought of as just an outer western Sydney suburb is now a vibrant thriving city at the foot of the mountains.
Steering the CBD Corporation ship is Gai Hawthorn OAM – a well-respected CEO who is most definitely a mover and shaker. As a newspaper editor I’ve worked with Gai over the 12 years that she has been managing the Penrith Business District and I can tell you there is nothing this woman cannot do. It is not unusual for her to be juggling several huge projects at any given time, and in between she’s busy helping charities, small businesses and promoting Penrith at every given opportunity.
Gai never takes credit for what she achieves, and will always tell you it was a team effort with whoever else was directly or indirectly involved. She has said it to me many times over the years, even when the effort on my part was admittedly minimal.
The current CBD Corporation Board consists of Darren Latty (Chair) Barclay Judge (Vice Chair/Treasurer) Doug Ely (Secretary) Councillor Mark Rusev, Ian Hix, Michael Todd, William Schrumpf, Matilde Princiotta and Adam Buckley. Two of the board members have been there for the full ten years, and many others over a long period of time.
Gai Hawthorn said she wanted to particularly acknowledge the original Chair, Owen Rogers.
“Owen really kicked us off, and he has played a significant part in how far we’ve come; he was very committed,” Gai said.
Rebecca Liu-Brennan, owner of PAWS Studio will sponsor a celebratory event next week and said after ten years of working together with CBD Corporation on festivals and other events, she wanted to give back.
“We’ve had a tremendous relationship with Rebecca and PAWS over the years,” Gai said.
Penrith CBD Corporation started with Penrith Council and a deed of agreement with the board to bring ‘vision of the city centre to activate, refurbish and grow the city centre.’
Looking at the achievements of the Penrith CBD over the last ten years is like taking a trip down Memory Lane (or perhaps I should say Park)
Just to name a few there have been Santa Fun Runs, Tinsel the Elf Promo, Poppy Park, Festivals, Tree Lighting (which began with an estimated crowd of 300 and then it grew every year; now with 20,000 plus attending). The Cooee March, Illuminated Dinner, Shop/Dine Local, Christmas Shopping Bags, Crazy Cruise Night, Pop Up Park activations, Small Business Month, Uncork and Unwind at AG’s wine bar, Living local launch, Mad Hatters Tea Party, Twilight Networking Catch Up, Melbourne Cup events, Pink Up High Teas/ Golf Days, Discover the CBD – tourism campaigns and Property Owners nights – and so much more!
Of course nobody predicted the crazy few years that would come next and include a Covid pandemic, lockdowns and restrictions, inclement weather and floods. The Penrith CBD Corporation went full swing into assistance mode, helping many business wade through treacherous conditions, including us at Nepean News!
They supported many business and community organisations with the THUMBS UP campaign.
Working with Penrith City Council and Police, PCYC, Penrith Community Kitchen and local businesses they pushed through food for those in need. Around 1500 meals a week for both Covid lockdowns, food hampers and food for the volunteers, Police, SES, RFS during the disasters.
“Business was our main priority and we were blessed to continue to work through Covid with guidance to anyone in need,” Gai said.
“Updates from government were sent out and we helped with signage and takeaway containers to keep business going.
“I’m proud to say with the support of PCC, we came through Covid with most of our local businesses intact. Even a few told us they traded better, they balanced their business better and with WSBC we also had many workshops and info zoom and in person groups with tips and tools for recovery.”
Penrith CBD Corporation looks forward to Penrith’s bright future.
“We have so many people and businesses who support us and I thank each and every one of them,” Gai said. “I’d also like to thank Penrith City Council for their guidance; the future planning and growth of our city is so important for our local businesses. Our board who helps keep our direction and vision on course and I value their experience and support and all volunteers who give time to help grow our city centre. Then the businesses in the CBD and their commitment to local business and local community events is priceless. I’m truly blessed to work among such peers in business.”
Congratulations to the Penrith CBD Corporation team; Gai Hawthorn, Derek Hawthorn, Beth Spanos and Berni Jurkovic! With so much work achieved by such a small team, we look forward to seeing all that unfolds in the years ahead!