Construction has started at the Wills Street development.

THERE are signs Bendigo is attracting the sort of inner city residential development that will make it an aspirational city to live in.

The developer of an apartment complex at 111 Mitchell Street has broken ground at a new multi-use residential building in Wills Street.

Scott Jackman has sold six of the 18 apartments, four of those to an independent living company for their design suitability for people with mobility challenges.

In the initial design phase, Mr Jackman insisted on apartments with wider doors, wider hallways, no steps, and no lips in bathrooms or kitchens.

“You can’t retrofit that accessibility, it has to be designed in at the beginning,” he said.

Mr Jackman created the Wilson Lane development to be accessible to as many people as possible, and says he has found a market for people wishing to return to Bendigo in their older years and who want to move into the city centre.

The development also contains office and some retail space. For the wider public, there will be a public park and a landscaped walkway connecting Garsed and Wills Street below the Bendigo Marketplace.

The basement, which will include car parking, is being excavated at the moment.

Wilson Lane is different from Mr Jackman’s previous development at 111 Mitchell Street, in that he starts from scratch rather than having to accommodate a heritage facade.

Regardless, he has encountered the same aged infrastructure challenges at Wills Street, including the sewer line that cuts across the block, and inadequate water and power that have forced him to spend $400,000 in infrastructure upgrades.

There are several other planning development applications for short term accommodation, hotel and residential hotel, in the CBD and in Bridge Street.

Mr Jackman said bringing people into the city is good for all businesses, and has been part of the City of Greater Bendigo’s CBD planning since 2005.

But what has in fact happened, according to Mr Jackman, has been a net population reduction in the city.

The societial shift to online retailing was affecting much of the shopping that was once done in Bendigo’s city centre.

Among those retailers most affected, he says, are those selling clothing, which people can buy online, and requires a large and ever changing supply of stock.

Mr Jackman’s answer to this was to fill the vacant shops with businesses whose operations can’t be replicated online.

That would include those that necessitate human interaction, including the service industry, many of which occupy the houses to the south of the city centre.

Mr Jackman’s idea is to bring those businesses and fill the houses with people.

Sounds easy, right? Well, the developer thinks the move will re-energise Bendigo’s centre.

– Sharon Kemp