Margate’s cultural quarter is already feeling the so-called ‘Turner effect’, according to some traders in the Old Town.
Many are feeling more upbeat as the gallery takes shape, and new shops are opening each month as the arts scene begins to flourish.
The opening of the gallery, which is still being built, is due in the spring of 2011, but some in the town say they are already feeling the benefits.
Stephen Roper from the Old Town Gallery in Broad Street said: “The effects are already being felt, but the big push needs to start this year.
“It has taken a lot longer than we anticipated and we have had to hunker down for a good few years, but the time is upon us.
“These old streets are coming to life and the impetus is with us now.”
Mr Roper, a jewellery-maker and gallery-owner, used to run a business in Whitstable, a town that has been transformed in the last 15 years.
He says the same thing is now happening in Margate but more quickly.
“I saw that town change so much through the years, but I believe it is happening much faster here,” he said.
“I came to Margate because of the Turner as it is a project we really believe in and I see this place transforming in a way that Brighton or Whitstable did,” he said.
Artist and businesswoman Zoe Murphy, an acclaimed furniture-designer, has moved into an old pie factory next door to Stephen.
She said: “As a local artist I would definitely say there is a real buzz around the place at the moment.
“There seems to be more investment in the area with new shops opening and I think that is lovely.
“It gives you a lot of encouragement to see other people having the confidence you have and makes you want to stick around. Shops that are opening may not be frequented loads now, but you think they will be when more people come here. I’m optimistic about the next couple of summers.”
In recent months the Cupcake Café, an antiques shop, Helter Skelter, Busy Bs and My Old Dutch have all opened.
In the meantime, live-music venue The Westcoast goes from strength to strength, with top acts such as The Bluetones playing in recent months.
Anne Marie Nixey, chairwoman of the Old Town Action Group and owner of Oriental design store Qing, said: “It’s encouraging to see everybody’s hard work pay off.
“We have believed in the Old Town and realised the potential it has and that is really beginning to show now.
“When visitors find their way into the back streets they are delighted at the little secrets that are to be found.
“There are more shops opening soon and I get asked about the place by traders all the time. I feel lucky to be in my third year and see the transformation as it happens.
“This year really feels like changes are happening.”