Plans to expand Lismore Square are 'conceptual': Owner
UPDATE, 3.30pm: THE owner of Lismore Shopping Square has said any details on the proposed expansion to the centre are still in the conceptual stage and subject to the council having an "appetite" to sell the land required.
Councillors will next week vote on whether to enter into a non-binding memorandum of understanding with McConaghy Properties to further investigate the proposal.
McConaghy's managing director, Gary McConaghy, said the memorandum was "purely an in-principle document to work through a number of steps to assist the council in ongoing decisions they need to make".
"The size, the scale, the expenses, all of those things would come in time," he said.
"This is purely to understand whether or not there is an appetite (for the council) to sell land."
Lismore deputy mayor Gianpiero Battista says the community should welcome the proposed expansion with open arms.
"Isn't that a good sign, that someone actually believes in the city and wants to expand it and spend more money in it?" Cr Battista said.
"I would take it as a sign of respect."
"We're doing what we can to get people to invest in Lismore, and when they do, people say 'that's not good enough'.
"It doesn't encourage investors to come in. People like McConaghy can go somewhere else."
Cr Battista said the CBD needed to "work on its own strengths" and it stood distinctively apart from what the Square offered.
"There is a lot of people there who recognise it's cheaper to be in the CBD. That's where the coffee shops are, that's where the professional services are."
"We're already revitalised the CBD with the quadrangle and gallery. We've planned for a service apartment.
"There is a council strategy in place to increase the number of people visiting the CBD."
Lismore mayor Isaac Smith agreed, saying the retail offering in the CBD and the Square was like comparing "apples and oranges".
"When you look at our CBD now you're talking about professional services, you're talking about restaurants and cafes, you're talking about boutique businesses - it's really a different feel and a different vibe, and I don't think there is as much competition as there used to be."
But Helen Nott, owner of Magellan St kitchenware store Pepper Tree Kitchen, says any further expansion of Lismore Square would be "detrimental" to the city centre businesses.
"I think we work in harmony now with the Square - they've got the same things as in every other town - you know there's going to be a Big W up there," Mrs Nott said.
"But doubling in size, I don't think we could carry that."
Mrs Nott said Lismore risked losing its unique feel from any expansion.
"We're trying to make this something different to what those shopping centres would be," she said.
"I know a lot of people go up to the Gold Coast and that's fine too. But I don't think Lismore has the population to support the expansion.
"I have been approached time and time again over many years to go to the Square.
"I don't see how anyone can afford the rent up there - it is mostly corporates."
In asking for community feedback, Cr Smith said he was trying to "keep an open mind" on the idea of expanding the square.
"I'm trying to listen to what other people want in our community and I'm trying to find out what the best thing long-term is to Lismore," he said.
"The big plus if the Square expansion were to go ahead is it would put a major amount of dollars into the council's pocket."
"If that's something like six or seven million dollars we could actually spend that on our CBD and the Lismore Park between the Square and CBD which I think would lift everyone's business opportunities."
He said Lismore was not going to get a Myer or David Jones, but a bigger range of "women's fashion and beauty" retailers would be a good fit because that was attracting people to the Gold Coast.
"I would anticipate the people managing the Square to be smart enough to put in the businesses luring people to the Gold Coast."
UPDATE, 11.30am: OPINIONS are flying thick and fast over whether a massive expansion of the Lismore Shopping Square would be good for Lismore.
Lismore mayor Isaac Smith, who broke the news to the community about the proposal, has received more than 260 comments on his Facebook page for and against the idea.
Those in support of the idea argue that Lismore deserves higher quality chain stores and the perceived economic boost to both local employment, and council coffers from the sale of the land, are desperately needed. They argue the expanded shopping centre would also increase visitation to the town, bringing more people more often.
But those against the expansion argue the future for Lismore is in an independent, unique shopping experience in the CBD - and the expansion of a 'mall' threatens that future.
Kara Parrish: "Our CBD can still be our beautiful, creative, historical and growing hub, but I think the expansion of the Lismore Square is great thing."
Shelley Odewahn: "I'd prefer a bigger shopping centre with a wider variety of quality stores. Nicer homewares (not cheap crap!) for example."
Dave Katschke: As an owner of a business within the CBD, inspiration could be taken from Warwick which is another regional hub similar to Lismore. Warwick has been able to create a synergy between their shopping centre and CBD precinct so both areas benefit. It's also worth mentioning that a lot of the chain stores who would occupy the square would be owned and operated by locals.
Mal Eyeington: People who are saying it would take business away from the CBD should just take a trip to Robina or Pacific Fair on a weekend and see the amount of people from our area shopping there. If we grow the square and you will get a flow on affect to the cbd. I agree with a new cinema with gold class etc to be included.
Nathan Gordon: "Absolutely yes. The town desperately needs this, council needs the money (desperately). There are countless positives and very few negatives (if any). This is coming from someone who works in a family owned business in the CBD. We cannot allow this opportunity to be lost to Casino, Grafton, or any other town."
Emma Lee: "YES ! Lismore is a regional hub and needs to have a larger variety of dare I say "chain stores". It would be wonderful to see H&M, Adairs, Cotton On Kids, Target etc. I also see excellent value in some spaces with controlled rent for local stores as mentioned above. I do wonder if pumping money into the CBD is a lost cause with future flooding always a potential.
Cathy Allen: "If you build it they will come... I don't think you have an option - town is on struggle street and desperately needs an injection of life- don't get me wrong I absolutely love Lismore and all the quirky shops - a Lismore Shopping square extension would bring MORE people to Lismore and because they are here they would check out down town for sure- I see it as a win win and am in total support for any development that will bring jobs and money into Lismore ❤️"
Former councillor Simon Clough wrote the expansion "makes absolutely no sense".
"With the CBD staggering from the recent flood and even the Squares figures predicting a 5% drop in turnover this expansion could well be the end of our amazing. Why support multi national corporations and franchises over our own small businesses!"
Hildz Cat wrote: "Seriously.....with the amount of empty shops in the CBD and the old Masters building it would be a waste. I know the CBD is more likely to flood but regardless there are enough LARGE empty places that need filling first."
Kir Sten: "NO I'd like to see the CBD revitalised ... so much for "come to the heart" if the heart becomes a square!!!! Supporting our wonderful retailers in the CBD and creating a vibrant shopping area is imperative for many and the feel of our city.
Hatz Despina: "Shops are mediocre, those who want to shop go to the Gold Coast. This town needs its own identity and it in the actual town itself. We need to support local business and encourage diversity. Perhaps the main town can be built up to 2 stories with a car park/ open market underneath so that flood damage is mitigated.This would be a major tourist draw card, not another David Jones.
Jade N Geoff Stevens: "I think it would be a waste. With the coast so close for those who like that style of shopping and the larger variety of chain stores that would never be possible here and also online shopping I think we have all we need. And I think it would seriously harm the small businesses in the cbd. Which has been dying for years and even worse after the floods. And after all isn't lismore known for its quirky local shops????? Building a bigger shopping centre seems pointless."
UPDATE, 10am: LISMORE councillor Eddie Lloyd has come out swinging against any proposal to expand Lismore Shopping Square, saying it has the potential to put the still struggling CBD precinct into "cardiac arrest".
Lismore mayor Isaac Smith announced last night on Facebook that councillors had been asked to consider an expansion of the square at next week's council meeting, triggering a flood of comments both for and against the proposal.
Cr Lloyd said she was "disappointed" that the proposal had been brought to the council when the CBD was still head down in flood recovery mode.
"We have had an evaluation done of the impact of the flood on our CBD and the results are heartbreaking," Cr Lloyd said.
"As at June, we had around 76 vacancies in the CBD - the highest number of vacancies ever recorded - double the vacancy rate pre-flood."
"Our consultant has told us it is going to take at least 2 years for the CBD economy to recover and that this is a 'monumental challenge' that can only have be achieved through focussing support on the CBD in whatever way we can.
"Supporting a square expansion does the opposite of that and is an insult to our struggling CBD businesses. A square expansion has the real potential to put our CBD's heart into a cardiac arrest.
"A bigger square is not going to add to our regional status. People aren't going to be attracted to Lismore because we have more of the same franchises, or a bigger Coles or Big W with profits going elsewhere. That is not what our community wants or need and is not economically sustainable."
In his Facebook post Cr Smith listed potential benefits of the expanded square which included funds from the sale of council land for the project to be directed to cornerstorne projects like Lismore Regional Park.
He also argued it could bring better shops to Lismore to avoid "leakage" of shoppers to the Gold Coast.
The owner of Lismore Square, Gary McConaghy from McConaghy Properties has been contacted for comment.
The Northern Star is also seeking input from the Lismore Chamber of Commerce and other Lismore City Councillors.
ORIGINAL STORY: LISMORE mayor Isaac Smith has revealed that the council has been asked to consider an expansion of Lismore Shopping Square.
In a post on Facebook last night, Cr Smith wrote: "Feedback please! Would you like to see Lismore Shopping Square expanded? If so what shops would you like to see?
"Council has been asked to consider an expansion of our shopping centre at next week's council meeting.
"At this stage there is not a lot of detail, they are just wanting to know if council is interested in allowing an expansion in the future."
Cr Smith said the expansion would go across Brewster St and on to the old hockey field.
He said the $90 million investment in Lismore would create construction jobs and ongoing employment.
"Money from sale of land will allow council to work on other projects such as Lismore parklands, CBD improvements, riverbank developments or sporting facilities etc," he wrote in his Facebook post.
"More local shopping to capture dollars that escape to other shopping centres.
"The larger centre will draw more shoppers into Lismore."
But the mayor acknowledged the shopping centre expansion would result in a loss of public land, would have a "negative impact on some CBD businesses if retail shops are duplicated in the new expansion."
He asked his Facebook followers what they thought, and he received more than 200 comments.