RUSSELL Claus believes Rockhampton has "one of the best foundations" to build a vibrant city centre.
But change isn't going to happen overnight.
Mr Claus, Rockhampton Regional Council's planning manager, urged patience and said the revitalisation process would take 15 to 20 years.
"There's a lot of expectation here about things changing overnight," he said.
"But there's no such thing as a CBD magic wand.
"It's going to take a lot of work on a lot of fronts to pull it off."
East St Mall and surrounds have been scattered with vacant stores after several business closures, including Moolatte Cafe and Cafe Calma.
The Morning Bulletin yesterday approached Rockhampton Regional Mayor Margaret Strelow about the issue, who referred us to Mr Claus.
In February last year, Mr Claus returned to Rockhampton after working in the United States for 22 years.
In his role as planning director at Oklahoma City Council, Mr Claus was responsible for rebuilding the city after a 1995 terrorist attack caused $652million damage.
Mr Claus worked on the development and implementation of the city's Master Plan, which included a commercial district revitalisation.
Reflecting on Rockhampton, Mr Claus yesterday said he was working on a range of elements for the revitalisation and had "a lot of different fires started, but nothing raging yet".
He said it would take time to improve Rockhampton's CBD and people couldn't expect to see big changes in the first five years.
"I believe the region does have the potential to pull it off," Mr Claus said.
"We've got the right framework; we've just got to fill it in."
When it came to the number of vacant shops in the CBD, Mr Claus said there was balance in the retail sector, with new businesses like Cuban rum bar Chango Chango and restaurants opening at Empire Rockhampton.
Mr Claus said his approach involved creating a collaborative partnership between public and private sectors.
He said the people he had consulted with so far believed the city was on the right track, but creating a strong plan was essential for lasting change.
"No city in the world was built in a day," Mr Claus said.
"The hardest thing is the cultural change."
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