The Federal Government has announced more than $8.5 million in funding for the Shepparton Mall redevelopment, ending decades of uncertainty over the future of the central business district.
On Tuesday, Federal Member for Nicholls Damian Drum unveiled $8 575 000 to fast-track a revised plan which accommodates the wishes of most traders in the area.
The Greater Shepparton City Council's new mall design — made largely in partnership with the Shepparton Chamber of Commerce and Industry — will see limited removal of trees, slow-moving traffic, more space for markets and a community hub under the Telstra tower.
Mr Drum said funding for the redevelopment formed part of a $207 million investment under the Federal Government's Building Better Regions Fund helping drought-affected communities across Australia.
“This game-changing project will help transform Shepparton's central business district and ensure our productive and vibrant region remains strong, resilient and prosperous in the long term and I look forward to seeing this project boost economic prosperity,” he said.
Greater Shepparton City Council will match the funding on at least a dollar-for-dollar basis, bringing the total expected cost to about $17 million.
Mayor Seema Abdullah said following refinement from contractor GroupGSA — which designed the previous $16.4 million Option 4 design — the project could be shovel ready by the start of 2021.
“I think with this big uncertainty around funding removed, we are really thrilled that the project can be fast-tracked,” she said.
“With this funding, we will now be able to finalise our design and tender and hopefully we can start as early as early 2021.
“It will take the best part of 12 months to complete.”
Cr Abdullah said the design allowed slow moving, one-way traffic to enter from Fryers St and exit via High St with no kerbs, so space could still be used for markets and gatherings.
“Later stages of the project would give consideration to extending the play area and utilising the (Telstra) tower space in a more attractive way,” she said.
“We would like businesses to be creative with what they want to do with this space, so maybe we want to look into shop-top living — that’s an idea.”
The news follows calls from a majority of Shepparton businesses for the council to adopt the chamber's revised mall redevelopment plan, with recent surveys indicating more than 85 per cent of traders were in support.
The chamber's plan aims to simplify council's previous mall design by retaining a majority of existing infrastructure, enhancing community space and improving safety.
The plan also includes the removal of the Stewart St exit, allowing a new art walk, while creating accessibility for people of all abilities.
Chamber president John Anderson said revitalising the mall would create an exciting space which would act as a major drawcard for tourists while translating into local jobs.
“We’ve got a fabulous lake, a fabulous Aquamoves, we have the SAM museum finished soon, and this really creates a jewel in the crown of what Shepparton can achieve,” he said.
“I’d like to say how incredibly grateful we are to council for recognising that something needed to change in the CBD and the mall ... and in doing so they listened to the voice of the business community as well as the broader community.
“Furthermore, we’re incredibly grateful we’re standing here today thanks to Damian and the Federal Government, so we can actually move ahead with this plan.”
Shane Sali, a long-time Maude St trader, said it was an exciting step for Shepparton.
“We always knew that it would require some sort of government financial assistance, and to have Damian come on board really does get the ball rolling in having this project completed,” he said.