Closing doors shuts out CBD
AFTER Lismore CBD’s occupancy rates plummeted almost 30 per cent in the last three years, agents are hopeful that an increase in the number of enquiries signals resurgence in the city’s popularity.
Occupancy rates, or the number of shops that are let, have fallen to 65pc this year from 92pc two-and-a-half years ago, leading many to wonder if Lismore is losing its attraction as a place to do business.
It has even led to one agent, Elders’ Andrew Gordon, planning to hold a meeting on Wednesday night to discuss Lismore’s planning issues and the lack of available residential land for development, which he argues is a drain on the CBD.
“We aren’t at crisis point, we are five years beyond crisis point,” the residential agent said.
Yet North Coast Commercial director Chris Harley is more optimistic.
“It’s not all gloom and doom, we are just going through a cycle” he said. “And there are not as many vacant shops as there were six months ago.”
He also points to Lismore Square and its recent extension as proof there is life left in Lismore yet.
“The CBD is definitely going through a hard time at the moment and we have seen a lot of vacancies, but that is starting to turn around.”
Still, he said at this stage the recovery was tentative, with only the loss of a handful of shops the difference between growth and contraction.
He said many local businesses have been doing it tough recently because of the global situation and would be surprised if any city was doing well at the moment.
“All you have to do is drive up the Gold Coast and you’ll see vacant shops up there,” Mr Harley said.
His company is currently marketing a commercial site near the Goonellabah Shopping Village and have received strong interest from ‘the big end of town’.
Lismore council is also acutely aware of the city’s empty shops and recently appointed a City Centre manager, charged with the task of promoting Lismore as the place to shop in the region.
City Centre manager Stephen Nelson said he will unveil a new campaign next week to brand Lismore with a new image.
Mayor Jenny Dowell, who concedes the empty shops have taken a bit off Lismore’s shine and businesses need to be encouraged back, maintains the city is still the commercial hub of the region.
Apart for the multi-million upgrade of Woodlark Street to make shopping there a more pleasant experience, the council has also appointed a business facilitator to assist large companies to move into the area.