(Image: AAP/Brendon Thorne)

Has the sight of an empty parking space ever filled you with a sense of foreboding?

I had never had that experience before. But yesterday, I went to investigate the retail situation in inner Melbourne, and the sheer absence of people was intensely troubling.

On Tuesday I set off for a walk along Brunswick Street in Melbourne’s Fitzroy (which is, dear reader, within my 5km limit, fear not). Brunswick Street is an iconic strip of shops in a suburb which has gone from poor to cool to gentrified (and which is now arguably losing its aura of cool as a result). It runs north-south for 1.5km of retail and restaurants, pubs and pilates. Its southern terminus is just a few hundred metres from Melbourne’s CBD grid.