FIVE years ago Newcastle's CBD was littered with empty buildings and Hunter Street Mall was beginning to resemble a ghost precinct.
But after the arrival of Renew Newcastle, 59 vacant properties have been brought back to life, supporting 138 arts, creative and community projects.
The city centre is now a bustling hub, busy with small businesses, coffee shops and small bars.
Renew Newcastle general manager Marni Jackson said the place had been transformed.
"Tourism has increased 25 per cent since 2008 and Hunter Street Mall is the second-most visited place," Ms Jackson said.
"Five years ago you would have been embarrassed to ask someone to meet you in the mall."
Next week, Renew Newcastle will celebrate its fifth birthday with a photographic exhibition showing off the successful ventures.
Ms Jackson said the exhibition, Rewind Newcastle, would demonstrate how much work was put into reactivating the city, through before and after shots.
"All the projects have had a lot of support from volunteers, artists and their friends and family," she said.
"It's to remind everyone where we've come from and how the feel has shifted in the city."
The exhibition will open on Friday night at The Emporium (6pm to 9pm) and will run alongside the Newcastle Night Markets.
An open day will follow on Saturday in which Renew Newcastle projects will open their doors to the public from 1pm to 4pm.
Those interested will be able to have a peek inside the creative hubs.
A downloadable map detailing the locations of stores will be on the Renew Newcastle website, and hard copies will be handed out on the day.
The exhibition runs until May 10 and is open Wednesday to Saturday.