Bridge Mall: vacant shop fronts concerning

VACANT: A lease sign advertising what was a vacant property on Bridge Mall in June this year. Ballarat City councillors have requested a report into the mall's future, including the potential to re-open it to traffic. Picture: Kate Healy
VACANT: A lease sign advertising what was a vacant property on Bridge Mall in June this year. Ballarat City councillors have requested a report into the mall's future, including the potential to re-open it to traffic. Picture: Kate Healy

Urgent action has been sought to address the declining occupancy rate of shops on Bridge Mall.

Ballarat City councillors were so concerned by the situation on the much-maligned shopping strip they called for a staff briefing into its future direction.

At the heart of the issue was whether the mall should be reopened to traffic.

However crime and safety issues have also plagued the strip.

Cr Amy Johnson moved a motion requesting the staff briefing at council’s general meeting on Wednesday last week.

She said she wanted a report on a strategy to reactivate the mall.

“I have recently been informed there are 10 vacant shops in Bridge Mall,” Cr Johnson said.

“A steady flow of traffic through the mall would likely increase business for traders.”

The former Supre site in June.

The former Supre site in June.

Fashion outlets Supre and Factorie both abandoned the mall in favour of a move to the refurbished Stockland Wendouree in June.

The mall must also compete with the Delacombe Town Centre, which opened earlier this year.

Retailers pushed for a masterplan in February, to address a wide range of issues facing the precinct.

At the time, Committee for Ballarat chief executive Janet Dore said it was possible to revitalise malls.

She said cities such as Newcastle in NSW had successfully drawn foot traffic back to their shopping strips.

Ballarat City mayor Samantha McIntosh told The Courier in June the mall was “crying out for investment”.

She said at the council meeting on Wednesday that Bridge Mall had been considered as part of a broader central business district strategy.

“A lot of work for the CBD strategy includes broader conversations for not just the mall, but that broader precinct as well,” she said.

Council’s plan to revitialise the area included the entire Bakery Hill precinct.

Cr Johnson said opinions on the mall were also divided, particularly when it came to re-opening it to vehicles.

“I am interested in hearing from staff of examples, from across Australia and internationally, of ways malls can be reactivated,” she said.

“I am interested to hear both community opinions and feedback from the businesses and traders there.”

Cr Johnson said different sections of the community had provided a wide range of potential solutions during the past few years.

This included more restaurants and cafes, high quality live music and busking, more events and markets, and even a roof across the mall to protect against rain.

“It is an issue the generates a lot of interest among Ballarat people and the community still seems fairly divided on Bridge Mall,” Cr Johnson said.