BENDIGO Traders Association president Ross White says the city’s central business district needs to “have a heart” if it wants to stay alive.
Several stores on Hargreaves Mall, Killians Walk and Mitchell Street are vacant.
Mr White said it is perceived that local traders in the city were on “Easy Street”.
“Shopkeepers are having a tough time,” he said.
“High rent prices is the biggest issue.”
The City of Greater Bendigo will host a forum at the Bendigo Town Hall on Monday night to discuss reinvigorating the CBD.
The forum aims to open the lines of communication between the community and the council, according to mayor Lisa Ruffell.
Bendigo Traders Association president Ross White said it was a positive move by the council to finally start the conversation.
“I think a lot of positives will come out of the forum,” he said.
“People should go to the forum with an open mind.”
Mayor Lisa Ruffell, who has been in business in Bendigo for about 30 years, said this was an issue she was passionate it about.
“I have wanted to have this forum ever since was I elected as mayor,” she said.
“It is important to get retailers, landlords, business people and the community together.
“We need to start talking about what we want for our city.”
Ms Ruffell said Bendigo, as a community, needed to stop thinking of itself as a “small country town”.
“We are a growing regional city,” she said. "Our livelihood depends on this.
“I want people to come and tell us what we should do.”
Bendigo mother Debbie Mack said the Hargreaves Mall needed to be revamped.
“I think it is so sad,” she said.
“Most of the shops have shut down and it looks really bare and depressing.”
Ms Mack said one of the issues she has was finding car parks and public toilets.
“Something needs to be done to bring a bit more life back to the mall,” she said.
“I don’t like the paving either, it reminds me of a graveyard.”
On the other hand Melbourne man Con Colaci, who regularly visits Bendigo, said he had no problems with Hargreaves Mall.
“I don’t think it is too bad,” he said. “There is the playground for the kids and lots of cafes to get something to eat.”
Ms Ruffell said the council was also using social media to get people talking about a possible revamp of the city.
She said some of the ideas that have already been sent through included more greenery and pop-up shops.
“It’s terrific that people are using social media to have their say," Ms Ruffell said.
The forum will be held at the Bendigo Town Hall on Monday at 6pm.