THERE have been fresh calls to re-open Armidale’s Central Mall to traffic in order to revitalise the ailing retail centre.
Tattersall’s owner John Cassidy says a one-way street with parking off to the side would bring back some life to the area’s retail and business sectors, extending the traffic arrangements currently in place in the East Mall.
“I’d rather that than free wi-fi in the mall, which has been found not to be effective overseas,” Mr Cassidy said.
Tattersalls is facing a revamp, with internal work already begun on a scheme that would ultimately see the building provide al fresco dining in the mall and in Cinders Ln.
But deputy mayor Jenny Bailey said while Armidale Dumaresq Council had not discussed the idea, she was peronally opposed to any move to re-introduce traffic.
“While there are problems facing the mall, I believe this is partly cyclical and revitalisation will occur,” Cr Bailey said.
Of the 57 shopfronts fronting the East and Central Mall, 15 are retailers, 18 are business and there are 14 vacant spaces. The rest are cafes, an art gallery and two pubs.
Many have complained rents are too high, but First National principal Brian Thomas, agent for a block of shopfronts in the Central Mall, says rents have dropped in recent months to between $200 and $400 a week for a 50sqm shop.
The Lolly Shop owner Jo Haynes said she relocated from Kmart Plaza to the Central Mall five weeks ago, attracted by a rent that was 70 per cent less.
“I think the rent is reasonable and I have kept my customers, although shoppers in the mall tend to be driven by the weather,” Ms Haynes said.
But arcades leading from the mall tend to remain quiet.
A collective of seven local artists established a pop-up shop in Hanna’s Arcade just before Christmas. They aimed to stay for a month, with their business culminating in an art show.
“But we are still here, enjoying the business and exposure,” a spokeswoman said.
“We would not have risked this new enterprise if it was long-term.”