The generation we let get away

Something needs to be done to stem the tide of disconnection between Maitland residents and their city centre.

That’s the message that was given to federal Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon by outspoken Heritage Mall trader Patrick Lane this week.

The Ken Lane Menswear proprietor met with Mr Fitzgibbon on Monday to canvass his views on how the city could move forward following news Maitland City Council had missed out on federal funding to assist in the mall’s redevelopment.

“It was [a] good [meeting], he was very positive and obviously he’s very keen to support our future efforts to revitalise the mall,” Mr Lane said.

“One of the points I made to him was that we’re in a position where we’ve almost lost a generation of Maitland residents being engaged in the city centre.

“This revitalisation is about 15 years overdue; there’s a whole generation who have grown up basically ignoring the city centre and that’s a pretty hard ship to turn around.”

The council learned last month that it missed out on the $7 million via the Regional Development Australia fund to underpin their revitalisation plans, which have an estimated cost of up to $17 million and include reopening the mall to traffic and creating links to the Hunter River.

While Mr Lane didn’t go to the meeting with Mr Fitzgibbon expecting to find a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, he said he did encounter a politician ready to go in to bat for the city.

“Obviously I knew there was no money, but I wanted to get his thoughts on revitalisation – should it be residential led, should the council be chipping in,” he said.

“His comments to me were that this [Maitland] is the biggest city in his electorate and we need to evolve and come of age.

“He believed, as does the council, that increasing the inner city population was the best way to guarantee long-term revitalisation.

“We did get $11 million [in federal funding last year] for [affordable housing] on Athel D’Ombrain Drive and I thanked him for that – I suppose two dips in the [funding] well could be asking for too much [for Maitland]. 

“But Joel said if the opportunities avail themselves he’ll get into our corner to  support.”

The council is still waiting on a report from urban designers McGregor Coxall, who have been working on plans since October for The Levee redevelopment, as the mall’s redevelopment has been called, which when complete will detail several specification levels and price tags.

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