Problems with Shepparton’s central business district and Maude St Mall need to be identified before any action is taken, according to a long-standing councillor.
Cr Chris Hazelman has called for shopping habits to be considered and a more holistic approach taken to revitalising the city. But he said a step back was needed to work out exactly what needed to be fixed.
Changing shopping habits and the impact of online shopping are among the factors he believes need to be considered.
‘‘In the very near future we need to make some realistic decisions (about the mall), but not at the expense of the rest of the CBD,’’ he said.
He said the discussion needed to take into account revisions to the CBD and factors such as the multi-deck car park and transport options around the city.
When and for what reasons people in Shepparton wanted to shop remained an important question that needed exploration, he said.
Cr Hazelman pointed to the Vaughan St revitalisation and questioned whether changes were going to be reflective of a CBD that performed better or just looked better.
‘‘In these days, when do people want to shop?’’ he asked.
‘‘What are their shopping needs? Their shopping patterns? Where are they going to?’’
Cr Hazelman said more supermarkets and electrical and whitegoods stores once called the city centre home.
‘‘Consumer demand has pushed them all out of the CBD,’’ he said.
The councillor suggested a forum could provide an ‘‘opportunity to get all the players together’’ to determine where there was common ground, if any, and explore areas of difference.
He pushed the need to look at Shepparton-specific solutions, incorporating impacts specific to the city.
‘‘People have firmly entrenched views and will point to examples saying if we did what they did we’d all be saved,’’ he said.
‘‘What worked somewhere else might not necessarily work here.
‘‘All too often, people say something’s got to be done, but can’t define what that something was. A lot will point to indicators like empty shops.
‘‘(But) main street shopping is doing it tough all around the world.’’
Language used during the Greater Shepparton City Council’s recent call-out for ideas revolved around ‘‘activating and improving the amenity of the Maude St Mall’’ and ‘‘aiming to drive increased foot traffic’’ by ‘‘giving people additional reasons to visit and stay in the area’’.
Cr Hazelman believed that outcomes resulting from the recent consultation period suggested anything but a road and parking would never by met with approval from some.
He questioned whether there was a correlation between ‘‘my trading is down’’ and ‘‘parking is to blame’’.
‘‘Can you make that direct link?’’ he asked.
‘‘Anecdotally people may say I don’t like to shop in the CBD because I don’t like paying for parking.
‘‘Okay, but is that the overarching reason why some businesses have been less than successful?’’
He questioned a reluctance to open weekends and public holidays, days he said the satellite shopping centre car parks were full.
‘‘At a point when the argument about parking is completely negated, because (they’re) operating on exactly the same conditions on weekends, most of the CBD seems to be closed,’’ he said.