Wandering through East Maitland's CBD, you are hard-pressed to find a vacant window among the roughly 60 shop fronts.
But over in The Levee - what is meant to be the hub of Maitland - it's a different story.
'For lease' sign after for 'lease sign' line dozens of empty stores in Central Maitland, some having been unoccupied for months.
Starr Partners managing director Andrew Cant believes it's a combination of things.
"There's not one particular reason," he said.
He said retail was changing globally due to online shopping and locally the redevelopment of Green Hills was having an impact.
But he dismissed the argument that rent in The Levee is too high for business owners who are looking to get a start or remain in the area.
"People say 'shop owners are too greedy', but that's nowhere near the case," he said.
"People aren't walking away because the rent is too high.
"We've had owners have to make considerable reductions in rent to get tenants.
"And at the end of the day, they're paying a significant amount of outgoings. Council rates are a big one."
Maitland City Council charges rate payers in The Levee Precinct a "marketing levy" that contributes to a range of marketing initiatives and activities.
A Maitland Council spokesperson said council worked with businesses at The Levee in a number of ways to assist them enhance their performance and resilience during what is a "nationally difficult time for retailers with changing consumer trends and decreased consumer spending".
"This includes working closely with the Hunter Region Business HUB on a suite of capacity building training resources, the development of a new business attraction prospectus for Central Maitland and the launching of Create Maitland at The Levee as a way to activate commercial property and attract new tenants to the area," the spokesperson said.
But Mr Cant said demand from retail businesses for space in The Levee simply wasn't there right now.
"We're just not getting a significant amount of inquiry," he said.
He believes the future of The Levee lies in office space. He said business owners were seeing the value in shopfronts - greater exposure, affordable rent and easier access than a second floor.
"We're receiving more interest from the service industry rather than retail," Mr Cant said. "That's not ignoring the retailers. Those businesses are generally going to have more staff than a retailer. Those workers have got to eat, they're going to buy stuff and support the existing retailers."
He said this is part of the reason East Maitland has been able to remain successful.
"East Maitland is more of a defined service centre," he said. "It has all the necessities.
"There's a good residential population surrounding it - it's convenient. There's also a lot more shop fronts in Maitland than East Maitland."
The Mercury is running a series on The Levee and its future and would like to hear from businesses and shoppers about the topic. Email: email@example.com