Apartments way to go but retail exodus must be stopped

The race to buy shop-top apartments in Maitland’s central business district sends out a loud and clear message to civic leaders and politicians about community expectations.

Eight buyers – from young couples to retirees – have snapped the High Street apartments off the plans, within a week of them going on sale.

 According to the developer, the demand for the apartments has to be borne out of their river vistas, the ­convenience of inner city living and Maitland City Council’s planned transformation of the Heritage Mall, to be known  as The Levee.

The completion date for the apartments in the former Flash Palace building is not until 2014 and it can only be hoped that some major issues surrounding the CBD in general, and the mall in particular, are resolved before then.

The quick sale of these apartments clearly shows that people want to live in the inner city. And why wouldn’t they? Many other cities and towns  have made rivers their biggest asset but not so Maitland. With all too few exceptions, shops and eateries have turned their backs on the river.

Under the council’s plan for The Levee this is about to change, however that project has struck a funding hurdle.

What is happening now is that some of the traders who were prepared to roll up their sleeves and have a go at ­making their businesses a success are growing sick and tired of waiting for action. They are pulling up stumps and heading to other more profitable locations and the empty shops and “For lease” signs are becoming more prevalent. People have always been considered crucial to the future of the mall – to help combat antisocial behaviour and create a demand for businesses.

With buyers lining up to purchase these apartments we will start to see the influx of these people.

But something must be done to stop the mall from becoming even more “toxic”, otherwise all the good work done in creating sought-after living spaces will be for nought.

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