23 February 2024

Marketing agency director brings depth of local insight to new role on City Renewal Authority board

| James Coleman
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James Willson is the City Renewal Authority’s new board member. Photos: CRA.

The City Renewal Authority (CRA) has a new board member, James Willson, who will draw from his decades of experience in local business and marketing.

The founder and managing director of local marketing agency CRE8IVE, Mr Willson is said to bring a “wealth of expertise and local knowledge” to the body tasked with reinvigorating the heart of Canberra.

The CRA was formed in 2017, with a governing board made up of “professionals with expertise in urban design, architecture, cultural planning, sustainable development, affordable housing and community engagement”.

It looks after central Canberra, from the Acton waterfront up the Northbourne corridor through Braddon and Civic to Dickson.

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The aim is “to create a vibrant city heart through the delivery of design-led urban renewal with a focus on social and environmental sustainability”.

Mr Willson joins six other CRA board members, who include a solicitor from the NSW Supreme Court (Christine Covington), a former president of the Property Council of Australia (Nigel Chamier AM), and an architect (Peter Mould).

Aerial view of a city centre

The CRA manages the appearance of central Canberra. Photo: CRA, Facebook.

He was “delighted” by the news.

“I have spent my whole life in Canberra and am committed … to foster Canberra as a great place to live, explore and enjoy, and a national capital that Australians celebrate,” Mr Willson said.

“I look forward to joining the board and working with the community, business and government to support the delivery of new buildings and places within the City Renewal Precinct that are of exemplary design quality, excite interest and participation and attract new investment.”

Mr Willson has served on the board of the National Capital Authority (NCA) since 2020, and before that, for the Canberra Hospital Foundation between 2011 and 2014. He’s also been a director of the Canberra Business Chamber.

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During COVID, his company, CRE8IVE, was also contracted by the ACT Government to come up with a campaign designed to “convey a message of unity and hope to the people of Canberra” and he has worked with the government’s tourism agency, Visit Canberra.

In a statement, the ACT Government said his appointment would “deepen the strong connections between the CRA and NCA and support integrated development in central Canberra in line with the ACT Government’s urban renewal objectives and the National Capital Plan”.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr added that Mr Willson’s “understanding of the National Capital Plan will be instrumental in contributing to the authority’s mission to create a revitalised, sustainable, and thriving city centre”.

NCA board chair Terry Weber described Mr Willson as a “proud Canberran with a passion for place making and expertise in strategic and digital communication”.


James Willson (centre) and the team at CRE8IVE have done previous marketing work for the ACT and Federal governments. Photo: CRE8IVE.

The CRA is also on the hunt for a new CEO, after Malcolm Snow announced he’ll retire from six years in the role in June.

CRA chair Christine Covington thanked him for leadership that has been “pivotal in shaping Canberra’s city centre into a dynamic and inclusive urban precinct”.

“His commitment to increasing the visibility of Ngunnawal culture, prioritising people-focused design, and promoting active transport will have a lasting impact on Canberra’s community,” she said.

Mr Snow was previously the CEO of South Bank Corporation in Brisbane, the CEO of the NCA and a director of international advisory firm URBIS.

CORRECTION: This article previously stated that much of the work of the CRA is funded by the ‘City Centre Marketing and Improvements Levy (CCMIL)’, paid by commercial property owners across Civic and Braddon. This is not the case.

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We know it’s a Marketing person involved when we see the claim that “Much of the City Renewal Authority’s work is funded by the City Centre Marketing and Improvements Levy, paid by commercial property owners across Civic and Braddon.”

The CRA has been involved in over $100 million dollars of projects. They were involved in the West Basin budget blowout from $28 million and to be finished in 2016 to $50 million and only two-thirds of the work delivered.

Much of the CRA’s work IS NOT funded by their levy on local businesses. This is a disingenuous claim to hide the truth around self funding their projects when it’s really funded by ratepayers and taxpayers across all of Canberra.

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