It’s time to address the issues, says Milne

AS store after store closes in the Langtree Mall, Mildura Rural City Councillor Glenn Milne says it’s time to look at changing the concept of the precinct.

More than 20 ‘for lease’ signs are now up in the windows of deserted mall shops, and each new sign is another nail in the once vibrant shopping precinct’s coffin.

By contrast, Langtree Avenue between Ninth and Tenth Streets is a busy place, where parking is at a premium and shops are tenanted and doing well.

“I personally would put through traffic in both directions but I think if the shop owners and business proprietors who are left there feel that one way traffic is an option, then they should be supported in that view,” Cr Milne said.

“The fact is retail isn’t what it used to be and the impacts of online shopping is taking its toll and it’s very active and competitive and so shops are finding it hard to compete with that.

“There are a raft of the other issues, including the cost of rent which he said is possibly too high. The days of high rents for retail businesses are probably just about over and that needs to be considered too.”

Cr Milne said that while the argument to have access from Lime and Deakin Avenues had some merit, it was impractical.

“If you look at the Bridge Street Mall in Ballarat, it has plenty of access thoroughfares and it hasn’t made any difference,” he said. “Their shops are closing and they are pulling the mall out and putting parking back.

“I think you’re clutching at straws if you think that is the answer. It’s only one block. It’s not a long walk to get to the mall. And who is going to pay millions of dollars to pull a shop out to get access from Deakin Avenue and then open up both sides of the lane? It’s a huge expense to actually provide that − for little if any gain.

“If it was the answer, then some of the traders could have worked together to create that access, and have pedestrian through traffic in the their stores, which you would think was a good thing − but they haven’t.” Cr Milne said that argument to have the mall in the feast street end of Langtree Avenue had been made for a long time.

“That end is more suited with the outdoor eating areas which have already taken some parking away and perhaps that should be the after hours area which could be closed to traffic in the evening,” he said. There needs to be an open and frank discussion about the future of the mall – it’s a live issue that really does need to be addressed. I think all of the stakeholders need to lay their cards on the table and put up all of their ideas and develop a plan, because it isn’t working as it is.”

Cr Milne said that it’s up to Council to bring that forward and the City Heart Traders need to push for that discussion to be held together with potential business owners.

“It needs to be driven by those stakeholders and Council needs to take those ideas out to the community for consultation and feedback,” he said.

“My personal view is that we have been trying to make it work since the 80’s when it opened and it hasn’t, instead it has progressively gone downhill.

“How much more money do you spend trying to improve it, when there are no guarantees it will work, and are they ratepayers going to accept another multi-million dollar spend that may or may not be successful? To head in the same direction in my view isn’t very wise and won’t solve the problem.”