In the spring of 1989, I was volunteering as the Program Director for Community Radio Station 3ONE-FM.
One of the first live broadcasts undertaken by the newly licensed station was to cover the official opening of the Maude Street Mall.
This was an exciting time for Shepparton, one embraced by our then forward thinking council, the general public and many traders.
It also tied in to the progressive "Solar City" theme espoused by the council at the time.
That was a different era!
ONE-FM presenters John Harbord and Valerie McDougall interviewing Politician Peter Ross Edwards at the Maude St Mall opening.
Last week I went shopping for clothing and footwear down the mall and was staggered at the increase in empty shops since my last visit but even more gobsmacked by its general shabby appearance.
Just look at the picture below of the sundial beneath the Telecom tower in Fraser St.
This mosaic tied in beautifully with the notion of Shepparton "The Solar City" and is now sadly in ruins just like the concept.
Imagine the jobs bonanza we could have had here if the "Solar City" theme was nurtured and developed instead of being left to wither on the vine.
For more on this have a read of my manifesto from earlier this year.
Successive councils have contributed to this demise due to their lack of maintenance of the area and inaction on revitalisation plans.
What is the problem and what do we need to do to move this forward?
I am aware there are plans to open up the Mall to traffic but I fear the time it is taking council to agree on a plan and implement it, will see the death of our CBD all together.
I ask you to think where you, as a proud Sheppartonian would take a visitor to this town?
- The Lake precinct? -Tick.
- The botanical Gardens at Mt Kialla? -Tick.
- The Fryers St food precinct? Tick.
- The lovely walks along the Goblin River? -Tick.
- Maude St Mall? Probably not unless you want to buy womens clothes.
- The "Vibrant" shopping strips along High and Wyndham St? Ok if you like traffic sewers, empty Shops and derelict historical buildings.
I could go on but you get the picture.
To make matters worse, who was the genius who decided to shut two major intersections (Fryers/Corio, Fryers/Maude) for drainage and Pedestrian crossing works and Maude St near Vaughan St (for the Bus interchange) ALL AT THE SAME TIME?
I'm no engineer, but surely they could have done one job at a time and blitzed that before moving on to the next intersection thus minimising the disruption to traffic and trading.
I ask again, what do we have to do to get our council off their collective backsides to get this Mall revitalisation up and running instead of floating grandiose ideas about an $18m rail overpass.
I am at a loss, so are the traders I have spoken too.
Two ideas for you to mull over.
- Re opening the Mall to traffic -urgently.
- Expand the foodie precinct around Fryers St to include the Mall and encourage more of our diverse ethnic cultures to set up cafes and restaurants by the use of incentives such as rate and fee reductions. A foodie precinct based around the Mall would become a tourist attraction and help revitalise the CBD.
Our City Council is failing us and the traders of the CBD, Its time for some fresh ideas.