Should we be worried about 'For lease' signs in CBD?
"FOR lease" signs erected in front windows of numerous empty shops in Lismore's CBD are a sign that change is afoot.
Tommys Tavern is among the most recent businesses to close its doors. Others include The Hub, Luv A Coffee and Target Country.
What kind of change will this bring to the city centre? Lismore City Council's manager of economic development Mark Batten said the question of what constituted a "healthy" vacancy rate was regularly asked.
Mr Batten said the latest CBD survey in September showed a 94.8% occupancy rate, which he described as "better than good".
"It's actually reaching a point where it's not good. You actually need to have a reasonable amount of supply for new people who want to come in," Mr Batten said.
"And that's challenging when they are looking for a variety of shapes and sizes of tenancy.
"Not one size fits all - that is important for the health of what is quite a natural turnover in business.
"Businesses go through ebbs and flows and business owners decide to continue business or not to, and that's just normal business activity."
Chris Harley, the principal of Ray White Real Estate Lismore and North Coast Commercial Real Estate, said the vacancies should be embraced as an opportunity to attract new traders.
He said discussions were in progress between the council and Lismore's CBD stakeholders to help alleviate vacancy issues.
Mr Batten noted limited accessibility to desired tenancies was one of the concerns raised at a meeting with interested parties late last year.
He said those at the meeting expressed the possibility of adjusting general CBD rates to ensure they were "more evenly distributed amongst the commercial owners of buildings".
Businesses in the inner city currently pay higher rates to assist with the maintenance of historical structures in the CBD, Mr Batten said.
"The question is being considered by senior management and councillors whether or not that rate in the dollar can be spread at the same rate across all commercial businesses," he said.
Mr Harley said the CBD general council rates weren't "the golden bullet" in solving the issues.
But he said the changes "might be the first change of a few" that could make "a big difference" to enable long-term business.
He added that in the past 15 years, the "whole retail scene has changed", with community service organisations and legal offices emerging in the CBD.