Shopkeepers tired of arcade delays
A MAJOR upgrade or complete redevelopment of the Wigmore Arcade in Ballina could be on the cards, with Ballina Shire Council revealing plans to revitalise the precinct.
Commercial services manager Paul Tsikleas said two options were being considered.
One is to reconfigure, refurbish and upgrade the arcade. The second option is to completely redevelop and/or expand it.
This would involve the council calling for expressions of interest from developers.
"Our objective is to give the arcade and the retailers a better future," Mr Tsikleas said.
But some of the retailers are sceptical that the council will deliver on its promises.
Leases for the shops expire in December, and there is already speculation that many tenants will not renew them.
Ballina Travel Value owner Ephraim Isaac said he would not have signed his last five-year lease if he had known the council wasn't going to build the multi-storey Wigmore Arcade carpark.
"Council didn't keep its promise. That wasn't fair," he said.
"Now I think it's too late. I feel very sad about what is happening to this town. We are here every day from 8.30am until 5.30pm. We can see the reality - business is the worst it has ever been.
"If the council comes to the party and keeps its word (about the development), I might stay."
Mr Tsikleas said the council was "bona fide in its intentions of revitalising the Wigmore Arcade complex and the Ballina CBD".
He said retailers would be invited to an information session to find out more about the project at the end of this month. Paul Full from Ace Photo Shop in the arcade said that instead of redeveloping the arcade, the council should reduce rents. "If rents were lower, people would have more freedom to do things in their business," he said.
"I'm not saying reduce rents forever - just until it gets better."
But Ballina Chamber of Commerce executive officer Nadia Eliott-Burgess said upgrades to the arcade were long overdue.
"It's an exciting prospect for the town centre and a positive indication that the council sees a future for the CBD," she said.
"The tenants will need to be closely consulted and have a clear idea of what's happening. But Wigmore Arcade could become the jewel in the CBD's crown."
DO YOU GO SHOPPING IN WIGMORE ARCADE?