OFFICEWORKS will leave a major hole in Hargreaves Mall when it relocates  to the edge of the central business district later this year.

The Bendigo Weekly can reveal the Wesfarmers-owned stationery retailer is moving to the former AAPT call centre site in Mollison Street.

The move will leave a significant hole in the mall, already battling a high number of vacancies, and comes as the City of Greater Bendigo this week released a draft plan to revitalise the mall, including building new toilets and decommissioning those already operational in two central obelisks.

The bus stop at the Mitchell Street or southern end of the mall would also eventually be repurposed into food and beverage outlets, and the council wants to build a large-scale shade structure.

The plan was presented to a committee of stakeholders  including traders and landlords, who have been meeting regularly for more than a year.

Not yet financed, the suggestions comprise the council’s contribution to lifting the appearance and amenity of the mall and attracting more
visitors., but it needs traders and landlords to contribute to the process.

For traders, the draft plan calls for staff and small business development training, while council wants council wants building owners to consider restoring heritage facades.

Specifically for Myer, which is the anchor store of the mall, the plan calls for council to support a rejuvenation of the company’s retail space.

Council also wants greater input into which retailers open in the mall, and will develop a retail precinct plan and investment prospectus.

“We are putting together a plan and we need a partnership approach to turn these ideas into reality,” mayor Margaret O’Rourke said.

“There are lots of really positive things happening in our city centre, such as our laneway precinct, some new food businesses establishing themselves and activities that have become a regular feature in the heart of our city such as the Moonlight Market.

“We are keen to see what the traders, landlords and agents think of what we are planning, because it’s important that whatever we end up doing meets community needs and expectations.

“We are still in the early stages of developing a formal plan, so the projects and actions will still be subject to the council budget process. 

“We have some great ideas that we think will have a direct impact on the vibrancy and activity happening in our city centre and residents will start to see some of
these come to fruition in the near future.”

Officeworks’ departure creates an opportunity to introduce a new retail tenant into the mall, or use the large, open-space building for another purpose.

Despite local speculation, electronics retailer JB Hi Fi yesterday said it had no plans to move from its Hargreaves Street premises.

Officeworks’ new building is occupied by call centre operator Serco, with about 80 people employed at the site.

Serco will move to a premises in Hargreaves Street in April with a spokesperson saying the company  does not expect to reduce employee numbers.

From April, Officeworks will fit out the more than 4000-square-metre building and move in.

That building, which also includes retail tenants which directly face Mollison Street was sold to a Melbourne-based buyer last August.

The Bendigo Weekly understands the new landlord wanted a tenant that filled the floor area. The site also includes 93 parking spaces.

Officeworks was contacted for comment but did not respond before publication deadline.