By Luke Voogt
Traffic congestion, homeless people, expensive parking and shop vacancies have brought central Geelong to crisis point, according to traders.
City business owners were now considering their future in central Geelong, said 25-year Malop St trader Sebastian Loader.
“Operationally, it makes no sense to either visit the CBD or rent here. Saying it’s a mess at the moment is a very kind understatement.
“There are a lot of traders making decisions about their long-term sustainability.”
The concerns follow councillors voting this week to review an ongoing multi-million-dollar ‘Green Spine’ upgrade of Malop St amid complaints of traffic congestion.
Councillors also agreed to make the Malop St mall a “high priority” for action despite the body overseeing city improvements, Revitalising Central Geelong, rating it a “low priority”.
Mr Loader slammed the $8 million first stage of the Green Spine, saying it had increased traffic, reduced parking and deterred customers from coming to central Geelong.
“It’s a disgrace,” he said.
“Malop St is a clogged artery.”
The design was impractical given the city’s low population density and high car use, Mr Loader said.
“There’s a real ideology around how Revitalising Central Geelong wants the city to operate. It’s not practical.”
Mr Loader said contracted gardeners were trimming trees in Malop St just to make the Green Spine’s bike lanes useable.
“That just shows you the ineptitude when it comes to this design,” he said.
Central Geelong traders had to compete with areas like Leopold, Waurn Ponds and Geelong West, which had free parking, Mr Loader said.
Rough sleepers in Lt Malop St over the past few months were also driving down trade, he complained.
“(Revitalising Central Geelong) have had their head in the sand for so long about the mall.”
Mr Loader suggested adding angle parking and widening the road in the troubled area.
“It’s bloody hard to for people hang around promoting anti-social behaviour if it’s a working road and a car park.”
Bridal shop worker Vanessa Macleod said police or paramedics were at the troubled mall every week.
“It’s a lot worse than what it was three or four months ago,” she said,
“If you’ve got a mum, grandma and bride and they walk through that … it’s very bad for business.”
Some of the rough sleepers kicked over the business’s metal sign outside, while others could be violent and abusive, she said.
“A lot of the girls who work here are quite scared when they walk past them at night and they shouldn’t have to feel that way.”
Windermere ward councillor Anthony Aitken said Revitalising Central Geelong’s list of priorities failed to “recognise something that all of us recognise … that the mall is a significant issue”.
“With this amendment we are sending a clear message that this council regards the mall as a top priority requiring immediate and high level attention.”
State Government and City Hall established Revitalising Central Geelong to make the city area a place to “live, work, play and invest”.