Maitland city centre’s retail future is getting flushed down the drain by the council’s inability to move faster on the redevelopment of the mall.
That’s the view of property owner Linda McLean, who led a delegation of Heritage Mall traders at a meeting with Maitland MP Robyn Parker yesterday.
Mrs McLean, La Belle Boutique owner Amanda Andrews and Ken Lane Menswear proprietor Patrick Lane appealed to Ms Parker to lobby on their behalf to the council for an end to the great mall stall.
Their frustrations ranged from issues as simple as opening the public toilets every weekend, to the more burning question of when the mall will be reopened to traffic.
Mrs McLean believed the council had made a firm undertaking when they voted to reopen the mall in 2011 that works would begin at the latest by the end of 2012 – and that date has been and gone.
“We’re on our knees down there,” Mrs McLean said. “There’s a lot of the community who want to help, who want to invigorate [the mall] and even [something] as simple as getting the toilets opened, everything is a ‘no’.
“Since that time [November 2011] there are probably more vacant properties in the mall.”
Mr Lane said businesses leaving the CBD suggested there was a belief the mall was a bad place for investment in its current state.
“They’re not bad businesses, they just know that this particular location doesn’t work, so they relocate to where it does work,” he said.
“This piece of infrastructure is no longer relevant and the business and investment community is telling [council] that by leaving.”
But Maitland City Council general manager David Evans said while he “understood there was a sense of frustration” among the mall’s traders, the council was “moving it through as quickly as we can”.
He said several dates were talked about in relation to beginning work.
But he said the fact the project had “grown since the original decision of the council to redevelop the mall as a combined pedestrian and vehicle zone” meant that it had required a more detailed community consultation and design process.
The issue of the toilets would be looked into, Mr Evans said, with investigations into what would be involved in changing the contract that dictates their opening hours and cleaning timetable.
Following the meeting yesterday, Ms Parker made representations on the traders’ behalf to Mr Evans and said she was passionate about seeing the mall revitalised.