Councillor says opening mall not cost effective
CONTROVERSY has been a word to describe the Maude Street Mall and what should be done with the street for many years, and while property owners and some business owners in the area continue to voice their desires to re-open the mall to traffic and parking, Greater Shepparton City Council says they have no immediate plans to do so.
According to Greater Shepparton City Council’s, Cr Jenny Houlihan it would cost the city $4M to return to allowing traffic through the mall, which she says is not a cost effective move forward. But, in her 10 years with council, Cr Houlihan says the mall has undergone many changes including the improvement of the playground area, removal of a stage, grassy areas installed and the outdoor roof near Jesses was removed, all of which she says has been brought about by council acting on the community’s improvement suggestions for the mall since it was officially opened on November 9, 1989. The total project cost of building the mall was $2.1M.
“Evolution and gradual improvement of our CBD is council’s policy and I am satisfied that this is the best way to move forward,” Cr Houlihan said.
“The amount of effort and money put into changing the mall and adapting it over many years has been enormous.
“There is no basis of evidence suggesting that opening the mall would be cost effective. According to evidence this is not the best move forward.
“We have constantly revisited what to do with the mall. After considerable consultation with shoppers and business owners over the years, there has been a range of for and against. There has not been one consistent view of what needs to be done.
“The most cost effective and beneficial means of improving the mall is to have more events happening and work on gradual improvements.
“We are not making any decisions until we look at the vote for a resolution for the Commercial Activity Centres Strategy, which included the whole of CBD, Riverside Plaza, Fairleys SUPA IGA and the Shepparton Marketplace.
“There is nothing in our resolutions or actions at the moment to suggest that opening the mall to traffic is something that council will be doing.
“If that position was to change, it would be a huge deviation of the decision based on community consultation two years ago.
“There are people in the mall who have been in business for decades. If the mall was a failure, there would be a mass exodus, but this is not what we are seeing.
“Council doesn’t make big moves that might be a big mistake,” Cr Houlihan said.
Shepparton Chamber of Commerce and Industry President, Leanne Hulm said, “Recently the chamber has been leading the discussion regarding the mall.
“The mall has been a subject for debate dating back to 1998, when the Maude Street Mall Traders submitted a redevelopment plan to Greater Shepparton City Council. Back in 1998, the submission was regarding parking, safe through traffic, landscaping, generous pedestrian access and safe sidewalk for cafés to further enhance the mall as a destination point.
“Given the recent comments from Cr Dennis Patterson that this matter is not urgent but needs to be done right, we agree with Cr Patterson. We do need to get it right but why has it taken since 1998 to get it right. I would think now it is time for some urgency.
Leanne added, “The 2015 report that was made available to the public in August clearly recommended to open the mall to slow moving traffic. Mayor, Cr Dinny Adem commented that it was a view on how to move forward and not what the public wanted. Cr Chris Hazelman also commented that he was conscious of the people’s wishes. Of course you are not going to please 100 percent of the community, but if we continually hide behind this then we will never get anything started.
“The Commercial Activity Centres Strategy report was prepared with detailed consultation undertaking and including a general call for submissions, workshops, face-to-face meetings, a business survey, a phone survey and stakeholder briefings. Based on this information you would have to say that the public has now been consulted and if this is the case, then why are we not going with the recommendation of this report as a lot of money has been spent to get this report and its findings.
Leanne continued, “The report states, and I quote, ‘… objectives is to consider options for the Maude Street Mall to include shared pedestrian-vehicle space. The action is to implement a design process that identifies options for the creation of a shared pedestrian-vehicular space in the Maude Street Mall (potentially including only that area north of Stewart or Fraser Street). Ensure that best-practice examples of similar shared space areas nationally and internationally are considered. This process could involve a specific project brief to appropriately qualified consultants, or an alternative process such as a design competition.’ This would be the responsibility of planning and has been marked as a short-term timeline and has been allocated an indicative cost of $50,000.
“We need to move on a design as soon as possible and start getting some momentum. The design phase itself will take time and this is time we no longer have as we need to revitalise the CDB area now,” Leanne said.
Maude Street Mall Property Owner, Ian Bugg said, “I, along with other traders have travelled to big regional centres including Penrith, Coffs Harbour, Southport and Foster, just to name a few. They each had a mall like ours and were facing similar issues to ours such as empty stores, no parking and safety concerns. They all decided to re-open their malls and have witnessed huge benefits in return for shoppers, business owners, property owners and in turn their councils.
We have given detailed studies carried out at Coffs Harbour to our local council who seem to have simply disregarded it.
“In the 90s, we had a Maude Street committee which carried out a survey and collected signatures of traders and property owners in the mall. 92 percent were in favour and were even willing to provide council with a combined amount of $250,000 to get the project started. Council and the CEO at the time denied it of course.
“Council recently also spent ratepayers money on engaging a consultant who recommended to re-open the mall to slow moving traffic and parking. Why spend the money for a consultant if they were going to ignore their recommendations?
“It seems we are now having to abide by councillors personal opinions. What needs to be done is for councillors to go out of town to visit these other regional centres for themselves and speak to the mayors of these regions so that they can see the benefits for themselves.
“We have the facts to prove it is the right thing to do to re-open the mall.”
If you have a dying centre of town, you do something about it, this is what many towns and cities across Australia have already done.
There are many vacant shops in the Maude Street mall, and business is suffering.
Imagine a thriving CBD again, with slow moving traffic one way from Fryers Street to Fraser Street, and parking on one side.
The street could be closed for special festivals and events throughout the year.
Shoppers are being driven out of the CBD, which is not good for the city.
$4M is a small price to pay for having a thriving CBD again.