Some traders call for road through Hargreaves Mall as Bendigo council details draft plan for CBD activation

Would a road improve the environment in Hargreaves Mall?
Would a road improve the environment in Hargreaves Mall?

Traders have welcomed a Bendigo council plan to improve inner-city vibrancy, but some are disappointed the idea of reinstating a road through Hargreaves Mall has been overlooked.

Plans to rejuvenate Hargreaves Mall and central Bendigo were made public this week, which included installing a pop up park to create more shade and colour in the mall and using the shopping strip for more markets.

Other short-term options focused on improving the public transport waiting area on Mitchell Street and working with Myer to rejuvenate its store, while more extensive projects could see the restoration of heritage facades on certain buildings.

Paul Sens, from Sens Jewellers, said the council hadn’t addressed the parking situation in central Bendigo, which could be improved by putting a road through the mall. 

“It might break up the congregation of undesirables,” he said.

Marion and Me store manager Julie Rooke said accessibility had a huge impact on shopping in the area, and if people were able to drive into the mall it would solve a lot of problems.

Bendigo Original Pie Shop owner Grant Findlay disagreed, suggesting the council were right in trying to make the mall a place of congregation, which wouldn’t happen if there was a road.

City of Greater Bendigo director of strategy and growth Bernie O'Sullivan said a road wasn’t currently part of council plans.

“We feel that increasing the vibrancy, shade, colour and softness of the area is the best thing for business and retailers into the future,” he said.

VACANT: Numerous shops sit empty in the streets and arcades of Bendigo's CBD. Picture: DARREN HOWE

VACANT: Numerous shops sit empty in the streets and arcades of Bendigo's CBD. Picture: DARREN HOWE

The onus wasn’t solely on the council to improve the area, Mr O’Sullivan said, adding businesses and landlords needed to take some responsibility to rejuvenate the area.

Youth volunteer Thomas Prince said pushing youths out of the mall didn’t fix a problem, and instead youngsters should be encouraged to frequent the shopping strip.

Having restaurants with al fresco dining would improve the attractiveness of the space, but it needed businesses to take a “bit of a gamble” with it, he said.

The largest remaining retail store in the mall, Myer, described as the shopping strip’s “anchor store” by Mr O’Sullivan, was mentioned in the draft action plan released by Bendigo council.

“It’s important that Myer goes on that journey with us,” Mr O’Sullivan said.

The Bendigo Advertiser contacted Myer to see what the long-term plans for its store were, and whether it planned to continue operating a store in Bendigo but it did not respond before deadline.

Historically a road ran through the mall, but in recent times it has been blocked off for pedestrians.