1891 saw the train line extended from the CBD to the Valley, and Thomas Beirne opened a business on Brunswick Street. His business thrived and, after extension, he travelled to England in 1896, leaving his manager of two years, James McWhirter, in charge. Soon after his return, McWhirter established a competing drapery business opposite Beirne's in 1898. Beirne and McWhirter became keen rivals and are credited with establishing the Valley as a hub of commerce from the late 1890s.
In the late 19th century commercial activities in Brisbane were divided along religious lines, with Protestant shopkeepers setting up along Queen and Adelaide Streets in the city proper and shops operated by Roman Catholics established in Stanley Street, South Brisbane. However in 1893 (and again in 1897) major floods wiped out many shops and owners in that area decided to move and set up operations north of the river in an area free of flooding. The area they chose was the Valley. By that time Brisbane's horse drawn tram system already centred on the Valley, making it the logical choice to establish a shopping precinct.
From the early 1900s through to the 1960s the thriving shopping precinct was dominated McWhirter's and Beirne's, and later, Overends', department stores. They were ultimately bought out by the Myer, David Jones and Walton chains respectively. Woolworths and Coles supermarkets and a host of smaller shops also flourished in the precinct during this period. Owing to its proximity to the CBD and the close concentration of public transport in the area, through the 1950s and 1960s the Valley became the largest non-CBD shopping precinct in Australia.
The rise of suburban shopping centres and the closure of the tram network in 1969 sounded the death knell for the Valley, with a gradual decrease in customers. David Jones closed its Valley store in the 1970s and Myer closed its doors in the early 1990s. The once thriving commercial centre devolved to dilapidation. In the 1970s and 1980s the area fell into disrepute and, with the tacit support of police and government, illegal gambling houses and brothels set up shop. As the first step to its revitalisation, the Chinatown Mall was opened in 1987.
In 1999, a new resident's complaint about neighbouring clubs' live music threatened the closure of the Empire Hotel and the Press Club, two popular and established venues. Musicians and their fans revolted through the "Save the Music" campaign and, 20,000 signatures later, petitioned Council and State Government to address the emerging problem. That resulted in 2005 in the establishment of Australia's first "entertainment precinct", designed to protect live music and new residents through planning restrictions.
The Brisbane City Council commenced the development of a Valley Music Harmony Plan in July 2002. The plan was developed in response to ongoing conflict that has arisen between residents and the entertainment industry in Fortitude Valley.
The aim of the Valley Music Harmony Plan is to manage the impacts of music noise on residents and businesses without compromising the viability of the entertainment industry in the Valley.
The Valley Special Entertainment Precinct exempts entertainment venues within the Valley Special Entertainment Precinct from the amplified noise requirements of the Liquor Act 1992 and allows Council to manage amplified music noise within the precinct under the Amplified Music Venues Local Law 2006. It also requires new residential and accommodation development construction to achieve a minimum noise reduction of 25 decibels in the 63 hertz frequency band.
The speed limit was introduced following a safety audit walk through Fortitude Valley by Cr Quirk early on a Sunday morning in late May.
The Valley Fiesta is an annual three-day event. It features free live music, market stalls, food and drink from many local restaurants and cafés, and other entertainment.