Local businesses have welcomed the City of Sydney’s plan to reduce rents for some of its Oxford Street tenants in a bid to revitalise the city’s traditional gay heart.

Ken Holmes, from longstanding Oxford Street retailer Aussie Boys, told Sydney Star Observer he was negotiating a rent reduction, due to be finalised by the end of the week.

Holmes, a member of local retailers group Darlinghurst Business Partnership, could not say by how much his rent would be reduced because negotiations were continuing, but expected the discount to be less than 50 percent.

Another Oxford Street business, tailors G.A. Zink & Sons, had been offered a 40 percent rent reduction, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

A City of Sydney spokesperson would not disclose details of current negotiations but said council discussed rent with tenants in the normal course of its role as property manager.

New leases are negotiated with each property on a case-by-case basis and reflect the current market conditions, the spokesperson said.

The Darlinghurst Business Partnership has backed the council’s rent negotiations as a way to improve Oxford Street.

Partnership chair Phil Wharton, who estimated that 30 percent of leasehold properties between Hyde Park and Taylor Square were vacant, said cutting rents would be one way to slow what he said was a worrying decline in businesses.

If you’ve been around on the street a while, you have seen how many businesses have closed down and how many long-term vacancies the council properties have, Wharton told the Star.

We believe that one of the major factors in revitalising the street will be attracting new businesses to the street, and the only way we’ll be able to do that is if rents are realistic.

I believe that, by meeting the market, council will attract new tenants and most importantly they will retain their existing tenants.

The rent negotiations come as the City plans a major revamp of Oxford Street, including a new retail centre between Riley and Crown Streets and a $200,000 upgrade for Taylor Square, expected to focus on the northern side near the Oxford Hotel.

Council also plans to install seven closed-circuit television cameras to improve security.

We are building on the street’s international reputation as a gay and lesbian icon, a destination for quality and quirky shopping, and a place for dinner and entertainment, Sydney lord mayor Clover Moore said in a statement.

The City has not announced a timeline for the upgrade.

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