COUNCIL-subsidised rent and reduced business rates could reinvigorate vacant parts of Hargreaves Mall, a local trader says.
Manager at Fresh Mint, Jenny Dhillon, said her business was not financially sustainable in the current climate.
“The mall is a really bad place for the public – people are scared to come here,” said Ms Dhillon, who suggested financial impetus from the City of Greater Bendigo would attract traders.
However Bendigo mayor Margaret O'Rourke was coy on the possibility, suggesting subsidising rent “was not a conversation we (council) have had”.
“Rent is an issue but it’s around the value of property – lower rent could impact the value of property,” Cr O’Rourke said.
“If it (subsidised rent) comes out of the discussions (with local stakeholders) it is something that would be considered.”
Cr O’Rourke said involving owners of the freeholds on local properties, many of whom were Melbourne-based, in discussions about the mall was crucial.
Bendigo Original Pie Shop owner, Grant Findlay, said improving foot traffic in the mall, through council-led community events, would attract businesses to the area.
“If you get people in here (Hargreaves Mall), shops will open,” he said.
Creating a better environment through social and cultural events in the mall could also help, Mr Findlay said.
Bendigo police Superintendent Darren Franks said anti-social behaviour, theft and drug use were the main issues in the mall.
“Some demographics feel unsafe at times in an around the mall – there are public order issues with people in the mall,” he said.
And while he ruled out having a full-time police presence in the street, Superintendent Franks said a Bendigo-specific taskforce, comprising of a sergeant and three constables, were working on issues within the mall.
Shop-stealing operations, foot patrols and proactive shop patrols were all carried out by the taskforce, he said.
Cr O’Rourke said shopkeepers had noticed an improved behaviour in the area since police increased their presence in November.
A spokesperson for the City of Greater Bendigo said council did not have a role in subsidising rents, a rental agreement is between the landlord and the business owner.
The spokesperson said it was up to a landlord/building owner to negotiate with the trader.