TRADERS in Hargreaves Mall are divided over calls for a roof on the shopping precinct.
An enclosed shelter in the mall was one idea raised at a public forum on Monday.
A number of traders told the Bendigo Advertiser they supported the plan but others raised concerns about the cost and potential building disruptions.
Topper's cafe's Anita Ryan said the roof would be a "major boost" for the mall.
She said having a broader shelter area would lift interest from shoppers.
"Something has got to be done about it," she said.
"It's become dead. It's like a ghost town. In 16 years in Bendigo I have never seen it this quiet."
Sporstsco’s Sandy Agnoletto said there were more effective ways for the council to spend money than on a roof.
“I think a roof is great in theory,” he said.
“It would make it a lot more inviting. But it really depends on the investment and how long it would take.”
Mr Agnoletto said more access to free parking near the mall should be a bigger priority for investment.
“I think having easier access to the mall is what our customers really want.
“I don’t think Bendigo can afford to have the mall not a vibrant centre. In retail it employs a hell of a lot of people. As a town we need that."
Former Bendigo mayor Alec Sandner said construction of a roof should be considered by the council. He said a submission was previously put to council that was costed at $8.25 million.
Judy Sens, from Sens Jewellers said suggestions for a roof were misguided.
"It would be silly to spend millions on a roof when really all you need is one or two sheltered walkways in between," she said.
"There are elm trees growing in the middle of the mall and they're going to get pretty tall. I just don't think a roof would work."
Nationals senator Bridget Mckenzie said she would support any local government measures to draw more people to the mall.
Ms Mckenzie moved her office from High Street to the mall in December last year.
“I love it there,” she said.
“It has been great for getting people in through my door and meeting more people. But it's clear traders are doing it tough. I would support anything to improve retail conditions."
Ms Mckenzie said she wasn't sold on the roof idea.
"Personally I like the natural light through the office, but it would be a matter for the council."