Rent rises crippling Melbourne’s creative scene

Rent rises crippling Melbourne’s creative scene
Ellen Sandell

The Nicholas Building has been a thriving creative hub for decades.

It’s a unique Art Deco building on Flinders Lane that houses everything from tailors and jewellers to zine stores and virtual reality artists.

But last year it was listed for sale. Artists and creative businesses who are tenants in the building, and the local community, were deeply concerned that if sold, this unique community building could be turned into yet another apartment building.


But they didn’t just sit on their hands – they got active. Tenants rallied together and put together a business case that demonstrated how the building could be saved and remain a vibrant arts precinct and community.


Artists and tenants got the City of Melbourne and philanthropists to support the plan. The last piece of the puzzle was a modest amount of support needed from the Victorian Government. Unfortunately, the government refused to come to the table.

Despite many approaches, the state government continues to refuse to help, and now tenants and artists’ worst fears are being realised – huge rent hikes are forcing them out of the building. Around 20 tenants have already been forced to leave or downsize, with dozens more artists and small businesses under pressure from these soaring rent costs.

“We are bracing for more attrition over the coming months, with many shared studios striving to make it work on a month-to-month basis,” co-director of the Nicholas Building Dario Vacirca said.

“I have spoken with multiple long-term tenants who are scouring other spaces where they can pay an affordable rate.”

This is truly devastating for our city. Arts and culture is a big part of what makes Melbourne unique. Post-COVID, the CBD is no longer a place people come just to work 9am to 5pm five days a week, and the thing that keeps it alive is the unique experiences you can have in the city, our arts, our culture, and our way of life.

If we don’t support artists and creative businesses, we’ll lose this too. If we lose a building and community like the Nicholas Building, we’ll never get it back.

We need a state government that understands and respects that, and will protect our creatives, culture, and heritage.

You can join us to support the Nicholas Building by writing to or calling the Premier and asking him to save the Nicholas Building. •

For more info on this, or to chat about anything else, please get in touch at [email protected]

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