Fresh eyes: Retail doctor reviews CBD

A shared enthusiasm for Bendigo's future has united traders and landlords as they propose improvements to retail spaces. Picture: DARREN HOWE

A shared enthusiasm for Bendigo’s future has united traders and landlords as they propose improvements to retail spaces. Picture: DARREN HOWE

A retail doctor has recommended council improve the appearance of the Bendigo CBD, while developing a vision and strategy for a more vibrant precinct. 

CBD traders were yesterday briefed on the report, which found there was scope for some ‘quick wins’ and for longer-term planning.

The Bendigo Advertiser understands the retail doctor recommended Hargreaves Mall should be at the heart of the fuller retail strategy.

Beautifying business areas was among the suggested ‘quick wins’.

It came as Premier Daniel Andrews this week all but confirmed the city would soon have new law courts – a key aspect of the City of Greater Bendigo’s bigger picture strategy to revitalise the city centre.

“I’m very confident we’ll be able to make some positive announcements at some point in future,” Mr Andrews said.

It was revealed in May that Court Services Victoria was well advanced in exploring several CBD sites, and it’s understood the City of Greater Bendigo is supportive of a site between Mundy and Chapel streets.

The city wants the courts to be “in very close proximity” to the CBD. The same applies for a “gov hub”, which will see three tiers of government co-locate in one building, more than likely on the site currently occupied by the council’s Lyttleton Terrace offices.

Possible other uses for the current law court buildings are being explored, and it’s understood relocating those facilities would mean the city could progress recommendations in the Rosalind Park Master Plan to open up more public space

Story continues below document.

Retail key to city’s future

THE recommendations of a retail doctor have fostered optimism among the city’s traders, who are keen to see the Bendigo CBD flourish. 

About 50 people were present to hear retail doctor Brian Walker present his findings at the Capital Theatre on Friday.

A one-and-a-half-hour discussion followed, during which Be.Bendigo chief executive officer Leah Sertori said traders shared ideas about how best to implement the advice.

She distilled the presentation and the consequent brainstorming down to three main points.

The first was a consensus among all present that Bendigo needed to get on and achieve the “quick wins” outlined in the report.

Bendigo mayor Margaret O’Rourke said the short-term recommendations mostly involved with improving the appearance of the CBD. 

They included increasing cleaning and maintenance, revitalising any tired-looking areas, and encouraging businesses and landowners to improve the look of their premises.

Stakeholders are keen to see areas such as Hargreaves Mall used to their best potential and full of people. Picture: DARREN HOWE

Stakeholders are keen to see areas such as Hargreaves Mall used to their best potential and full of people. Picture: DARREN HOWE

Other recommendations included putting up hoardings, similar to those used for empty stores, to help tell Bendigo’s story. 

Cr O’Rourke said the retail doctor encouraged the City of Greater Bendigo to keep working with police to create a safer environment.

She said the advice was not targeted specifically to Hargreaves Mall, though she said it was one of the areas in which the city was already implementing many of the report’s recommendations.

“The CBD, particularly the mall, has had a number of deep cleans,” Cr O’Rourke said. 

A sound system has been installed, and the council is increasing lighting in the area. 

Efforts are underway to increase CCTV throughout the Bendigo CBD. 

“There’s certainly a lot on the agenda that people are keen to work through,” Cr O’Rourke said. 

The City of Greater Bendigo budgeted $45,000 to update the CBD structure plan.

The most recent strategy is dated December 2005 – “well and truly ready for a refresh,” Cr O’Rourke said.

“People do have a real sense of wanting to see Bendigo revitalised,” she said. 

Council’s discussions with traders have already broached topics such as vacant shopfronts and the best mix of traders to occupy them.

Which brings us to the two other points Ms Sertori mentioned: the need for collaboration between the council and the community, and the need for a strategy, and to define council’s role in implementing that vision.

The retail doctor suggested a steering committee, comprised of interested stakeholders, might be instrumental in developing that vision. 

Attendees at Friday's meeting stressed a need for all stakeholders to be involved in making the CBD more vibrant. Picture: DARREN HOWE

Attendees at Friday’s meeting stressed a need for all stakeholders to be involved in making the CBD more vibrant. Picture: DARREN HOWE

Traders, landlords keen to get involved

DISCUSSIONS about boosting the appeal of the Bendigo CBD were attracting a broad cross-section of stakeholders, an attendee said.

“There’s now genuine recognition it’s an issue we need to do something about,” Craig Tweed, of Tweed Sutherland First National, said following Friday’s meeting.

He said attendees were interested in the future of precincts such as Hargreaves Mall, which the Bendigo Advertiser understands a retail doctor recommended be a centre piece of a comprehensive retail strategy to be developed.

Mr Sutherland said the main concern of those at Friday’s meeting was increasing foot traffic in the area.

“The mall itself wasn’t overly criticised,” he said. 

The realtor had a sanguine view of the situation, and of the potential for an already great city to become even better. 

Hayley Tibbett, from Indulge Fine Belgian Chocolate, was of a similar mind.

“It’s positive we’ve got a group on board who actually can make some progress in this area,” she said.

The City of Greater Bendigo's ambitions extend to other big-ticket plans, including new law courts and the potential to build a government hub. Picture: DARREN HOWE

The City of Greater Bendigo’s ambitions extend to other big-ticket plans, including new law courts and the potential to build a government hub. Picture: DARREN HOWE

Future plans include courts

THE community’s desire to see Bendigo revitalised extended to big-ticket projects, mayor Margaret O’Rourke said. 

She said feasibility work for new law courts and a ‘gov hub’ – a single building in which local, state and federal government are located – was “starting to really ramp up”.

“We’re talking about something that might house about 1000 people and we would want that in the CBD,” Cr O’Rourke said of the proposed gov hub. 

A number of sites are being considered for the project, one of which is currently home to the council offices at Lyttleton Terrace. 

“The state government are interested in the potential of what might be there and obviously we’re an interested party to understand it more,” Cr O’Rourke said. 

Similarly, the council is interested to learn more about plans for new law courts.

The Bendigo Advertiser reported after the state budget that several sites in the CBD were being considered by Court Services Victoria.

The City of Greater Bendigo is supportive of a new court precinct in the area between Mundy and Chapel streets, currently occupied by Bendigo TAFE.

The Rosalind Park Precinct Master Plan identifies the Bendigo Creek frontage behind the law courts and the visitor information centre as a site with the possibility to be "converted or returned to parkland".

The Rosalind Park Precinct Master Plan identifies the Bendigo Creek frontage behind the law courts and the visitor information centre as a site with the possibility to be “converted or returned to parkland”.

The future of the heritage law court buildings is up for discussion, with more public space planned for the rear of the buildings in the Rosalind Park Master Plan.

Members of Bendigo’s legal fraternity welcomed the confidence with which Premier Daniel Andrews spoke of upgrades to the law courts while in Bendigo on Thursday. 

“It is gratifying that all the advocacy efforts of the local legal profession has made such an impact on the premier and state government,” Bendigo Law Association president Tom Wolff said. 

Mr Andrews said planning was progressing well.

“I’m very confident we’ll be able to make some positive announcements at some point in future,” he said.

However, he said there would only be one opportunity to upgrade the courts, and it should be done properly. 

“Piecemeal solutions will not work,” Mr Wolff concurred. 

“Bendigo is being serviced by a court building that is over 120 years old.

“We need facilities that are comprehensively updated and can meet our needs for the decades.”

He said the law association and its members were eagerly awaiting the release of the business plan being prepared by Court Services Victoria.

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