POP-UP stores, roofing on Hargreaves Mall, increased transport, removal of parking fees and more events have been raised as solutions to problems with Bendigo’s CBD.
About 60 people met at the Bendigo Town Hall on Monday night to discuss ways to improve the area.
Bendigo Traders Association president Ross White told the Bendigo Advertiser earlier this month he was “extremely concerned” about vacant shops in the CBD.
Mayor Lisa Ruffell said the discussion was about raising ideas, not a wish list, and asked if there was interest in an action plan.
“There are a lot of opinions,” she said at the start of the meeting.
“We need to have a vision to go forward.
“We need your businesses to be prosperous and we also need the council to look at that and help any way we can.”
Neil Athorn of Sandhurst Trustees asked if there were too many shops.
“Are we trying to support too much square metreage?” he said.
But council place manager Phil DeAraugo said Bendigo had less floorspace than other regional areas like Ballarat.
A man who referred to himself as “Rob” said shopping centres “springing up everywhere” were responsible for the CBD downturn and another questioned the mix of stores.
Marg Gaskell said shoppers wanted “something different”.
Another person noted that central Bendigo was the only place where people paid for parking, and another said the multi-storey car park needed to be open longer.
Bendigo health chairman Michael Langdon raised the idea of transport running from the train station to Queen Elizabeth Oval to get more people into the CBD.
Colin Campbell said pop-up stores, where businesses move into vacant shopfronts for short periods, could also help address problems with vacancies.
Mr DeAraugo said there were 12 or 13 vacant shops in the “core” of Bendigo, about 5.5 per cent of floor space.