More people, more often is the focus of an upcoming report to Council featuring a range of initiatives its hoped will revitalise Hargreaves Mall and the broader city centre.
It is recommended Council adopt the Hargreaves Mall Action Plan 2023-2026 (to replace the Transforming the City Centre Action Plan, first adopted in 2018), which is intended to give the City of Greater Bendigo a three-year timeframe to increase visitation and business development in the city centre.
The updated plan has been developed in response to high shop vacancy rates, cleanliness concerns, low activation levels and anti-social behaviour.
The action plan notes there is not one ‘silver bullet’ solution to fix the problem and coordinated action from a range of stakeholders is critical. While the City has an active role in creating a clean and inviting public space, the action plan also recognises that thriving city centres rely on having a diversity of uses that attract people to them at all hours of the day and into the evening, and the future success of the city centre will rely on achieving the right mix of products and services that customers want.
The proposed three-year action plan features 10 short-term actions and four medium-term actions, including:
- Landscape improvement works to replace the temporary pop-up park, including shade trees, seating and tables
- Increase cleaning services in city centre public spaces
- Engage a Business Attraction Broker to help drive business attraction and complement existing tenancies across the city centre
- Increase activation of public spaces
- Recommence use of repurposed lantern structures for micro-tenancies
- Establish formal city centre stakeholder group meetings to work collaboratively to focus on social issues
- Modify the existing Mitchell Street bus stop, install festoon lighting and additional bright lighting, and paint the columns in bright colours
- Advocate to the Department of Transport and Planning for changes to the local bus network
The Council report notes that reinstating a road or allowing one-way traffic through Hargreaves Mall was considered but is not preferred, mainly due to the cost but also the loss of public space, pedestrian safety, the challenges of a road bordering the play space (or potential removal of the play space) and disruptions to the surrounding road network.
The 2020/2021 Budget included funds for a new shade structure, which was put on hold until the planned hotel in Hargreaves Mall was built, with the aim of both projects being completed at the same time. Unfortunately, the hotel is unable to go ahead at this stage due to the current economic climate and escalation in construction costs. It is recommended the funds for the shade structure be reallocated to partly fund the updated action plan, with all remaining costs in 2023/2024 to be accommodated within existing budgets.
The updated action plan notes the issues experienced in Bendigo’s retail landscape are not unique to Bendigo but research shows bricks and mortar stores still have a strong role to play when they offer a unique experience.