Last year a delegation from the Coffs Harbour City Council (CHCC) visited Geelong with a view to seeing if what had been done there with their city center and arts/council precinct was of relevance to Coffs Harbour and the proposed new Gordon Street Cultural/Council Chambers.
The general view as represented by the General Manager of the CHCC in one of his regular columns in The Advocate was that there was a lot Coffs Harbour could learn from Geelong.
A story on the visit to Geelong can be found here – https://coffscoastoutlook.com.au/so-what-did-the-chcc-delegation-to-geelong-uncover/
One particular argument in favour of the Gordon Street Cultural Centre/Council chambers, currently estimated to cost northwards of $75m, is that it will help revitalise Coffs Harbour’s CBD and make the city a more popular destination.
The following is from the Geelong Advertiser of March 10 2019 obtained by using outline.com
“Almost one in 10 shops in Geelong’s CBD are vacant, a Geelong Advertiser survey of 160 shopfronts has revealed.
The Addy surveyed shops in the CBD’s main shopping strips — Ryrie St, Morrabool St, Malop St, Yarra St and Little Malop St, excluding Westfield and Market Square.
Moorabool St had the most empty shops with 17.7 per cent, or eight out of 45, left vacant.
Half of the empty shops in Moorabool St are adjacent to the bus interchange, which is now patrolled by PSOs to prevent the anti-social behaviour, which is rife in the mall.
Camera House manager Doug Ellis said the store moved to its current Moorabool St location 10 years ago and had watched many of its neighbours vacate due to “youth problems” in the area.
“We had a stabbing only a month ago,” he said.
“I don’t think the area is recoverable.”
Mr Ellis said the council needed to remove the bus interchange to discourage unruly people from congregating and driving away customers.
“Moorabool St has been declining for years,” he said.
“Making the footpaths wider hasn’t helped at all because now there’s no customers to walk along them.”
He also said customers were now shopping at shopping centres that had free parking like Waurn Ponds, Leopold and Corio instead of paying “ridiculous” amounts at Westfield and Market Square.
The empty Moorabool St shops are also found down the hill from the beleaguered Belcher’s corner building, which remains cordoned off from the public and is set to be knocked down.
At the end of that block, the former Thomas Jewellers building remains vacant after the business closed all its Victorian stores in late 2017.
Last year the troubled stretch of Little Malop St between Moorabool and Yarra streets — the former mall, now partially opened to traffic — contained the highest proportion of vacant premises with 11 of its 25 shopfronts vacant.
This year just five of the 25 shops were empty, despite an influx of rough sleepers and anti-social behaviour in the mall in recent months.
City of Greater Geelong director of investment and attraction Brett Luxford said the whole of central Geelong had a street front vacancy rate of about 7.9 per cent.
“These figures are consistent and in some cases better than other urban shopping strips,” he said.
Mr Luxford said the vacancy rate has steadily reduced from 9.54 per cent in April last year.
None of the 20 shops in scenic Malop St are vacant.
The street is brimming with shops after work on the $8 million first stage of the Green Spine project along Malop St CBD finished in June.
In 2014, the Addy identified 87 vacant ground-level stores on city streets, with another seven occupied but up for lease or sale and in 2011 the Addy reported 69 empty buildings in Geelong’s CBD.
Mr Luxford said the council was currently working on a range of initiatives to fill vacant shops, including the Revitalising Central Geelong partnership and the Renew Geelong project, which fills vacant premises by providing subsidies to support creative start-up businesses.
“The City provides grants for property owners to improve their building exteriors to make them more attractive to tenants and improve their street appeal,” he said.
“Central Geelong Marketing also works with property owners to activate vacant premises for events and activities, including Christmas in central Geelong and Kids Fun Programs.”
First published at the Geelong Advertiser, March 10 2019.
The source who sent Outlook this story has recently been to Geelong having once lived there before. They commented;
“I have to tell you that having once lived and worked in Geelong, the city CBD today is nothing but a horror story, with the gallery and millions spent by the Geelong City Council having had no effect on raising prosperity.
The Coffs Council and Chamber of Commerce are kidding themselves if they think that having a Council building and apartment living in the CBD will turn Coffs into a destination city.
Geelong has transformed old industrial buildings on the fringe of the city into apartments and education centres with success; not the CBD.
While Geelong is a much larger city than Coffs, it was not immune from the Victoria Government shutting them down and sacking the Council along with some senior managers.
Perhaps this needs to happen here and if Labor win in a fortnight, whoever becomes Minister for Local Government, Coffs Council should be at the head of their “Things to Do List”?