The recently revealed Bridge Mall concept designs are the first step in getting people back into the neglected precinct and getting development moving, according to City of Ballarat chief executive Evan King.
The concept designs are set to be discussed at Wednesday night's council meeting, with councillors to vote on the endorsement of the designs which would then inform the final designs and the rest of the long-term project.
Council is hoping the redevelopment of the Bridge Mall will attract more businesses to open in precinct, which is currently awash with 'for lease' signs and often devoid of foot traffic, but also spread the economic development further east into the Bakery Hill area.
Mr King said one of the more exciting parts of the concept design was the creation of a meeting place in the mall with the community benefits to then create economic benefits.
"The bit I'm most interested about is that activation, that meeting place, creating a really welcoming spot that people are drawn to when they're looking for somewhere to go, whether that is to shop to buy something, whether that's to sit down and eat, whether that's to catch up and meet or watch the kids play on the playground, everyone will have a different reason to be in the Bridge Mall," he said.
"We've got to get people down there shopping, eating, browsing and if you create the environment that will attract people and when people get attracted, they will consume while they're down there.
"I think it's important to create an environment that attracts people, that will then also attract a mixed range of businesses that can benefit from that activation."
Mr King said the Bridge Mall redevelopment was the first domino in the plan to uplift the eastern part of the Ballarat CBD.
"It's important to understand the redevelopment of the Bridge Mall and the opening of it is only one part of what creates the Bridge Mall," he said.
"Ultimately, you need people down there, you need people circulating, whether that's people working and going in there for lunch and those sorts of things, whether it's people living in close vicinity that then use it for a whole range of purposes.
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"This is one part of the Bakery Hill urban redevelopment plan, but it's the first domino in a range of dominos and if we can start with this and if it starts to attract people then it will attract other development, it'll attract businesses that want to open in the Bridge Mall."
The concept design was developed following consultation with the Bridge Mall Traders Association and the community through council's shopfront in the mall, along with other community groups.
Through the consultation process, several critical elements were identified and included in the concept design, including the connection between the Wadawarrung people and country, the Ballarat's connection to its waterways, an element of play and discovery for children, accessibility and creating a vibrant trade hub.
The concept design extends the Sturt Street gardens along Grenville Street, connecting the city with the Yarrowee River and Canadian Creek trails.
A 30-metre-long play space will be included on the Bridge Mall's southern side to encourage families to gather.
An arbour-styled covering and new shelters has been included for Coliseum Walk to encourage outdoor dining and trading.
Mr King said the redevelopment of the Bridge Mall is something that had been a hot topic for some time.
"The Bridge Mall redevelopment has been an item that's been debated for a very long time and lots of people have a range of views on how to activate that space," he said.
"We've had a shop down there, we've invited people to drop into the shop and provide feedback, we've worked with the Bridge Mall Traders Association, we've run a number of online engagement activities, so that input has been gathered over a very long time and now the concept design, you're now seeing the output of that really significant long-term engagement that's happened on this project."
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