Nearly one in five commercial buildings in Darwin is empty and the Property Council says urgent action is needed to turn the struggling economy around.
Vacancy rates in Darwin were at 17.2 per cent in the 12 months to January 2019 and areas such as the CBD mall feature multiple lease signs and vacant spaces.
The loss of 10,000 Inpex gas project workers is a major cause and the current quiet wet season adds to the problem with fewer people around spending money.
Numerous well known and long term businesses have shut up shop recently, including the CBD's only cinema and the large Ducks Nuts Bar and Grill next door leaving a large empty block.
Other retail and hospitality businesses have closed, including Darwin's award-winning Asian Gateway after 40 years, blamed on having to pay nearly $8000 monthly rent with landlords facing criticism for refusing to lower charges.
An NT Government derelict and vacant property levy will be in effect from July to encourage landlords to put buildings to use, imposing charges on properties which have a 50 per cent vacancy rate or more and on undeveloped land.
However the levy is opposed by the Property Council NT executive director Ruth Palmer, who said it "will not do anything to fix the problem of empty buildings".
The Property Council listed eight recommendations to improve the CBD.
They include changes to planning laws that would encourage people to build or live in the CBD and providing concessions, offsetting the additional construction costs in developing there, plus increasing the number of people living in the city with other concessions.
"Problem sites" should be beautified too and cultural and indigenous organisations involved, Ms Palmer said, with anti-social behaviour and crime involving itinerants damaging Darwin's reputation.
"Taxes and levies don't encourage investment and they definitely will not improve the performance of the CBD. We believe it will further deteriorate the market," said.
"The Darwin CBD is the primary employment hub for the Top End and is in desperate need of additional employment and economic activity."
© AAP 2019