BENDIGO’S central business district has become a focal point once again, as the ongoing search for ways to revitalise and kick start the heart of the city comes to a head once more.
But before anyone embarks on another rapid excursion into negativity, we must acknowledge the fact that things can and should be better, for both traders and visitors to the heart of town.
And they will be better.
This week, council unveiled some thoughts and ideas on how to lift the CBD, an action it should be congratulated for.
Good ideas need championing, debate and ultimately funding.
But it is frustrating for many traders that some of what has been proposed is not new, it just has not happened – yet.
Pop up gardens or pop up spaces are simply that. They do not need or require years of planning and in the case of the beleaguered Hargreaves Mall, something should have popped up years ago.
Every time this newspaper, or for that matter, any other media outlet in Bendigo decries something regarding the mall, we are accused of choosing to highlight a negative, and in effect, of driving people away from the centre of the city and its many retail, hospitality and service establishments.
The one thing that everyone must acknowledge is that unless problems are highlighted, or the fact they problems have not been fixed, nothing will ever be done.
It is the media’s role to continue to push for change, because change means something better, and in the case of the Hargreaves Mall, we sense these latest effort to revive the precinct might just be the most successful and effective yet.
We certainly hope so.
Supporting change is ultimately about supporting traders and recognising the opportunity to create a better environment for them to work in, and for customers to enjoy.
Frustrated traders know there are limits to what they can do to attract shoppers into the city and (hopefully) into their shops, but that’s where council can, must, and it seems will, take action.
Council does not, and cannot, control the retail spaces fronting the mall or anywhere else in the central business district. But it can exert its influence over the look and feel, and what goes on in the public spaces that include the mall.
There has always been intention and support for the mall to be better, but the time has come to convert aspirations to reality.
This is not an easy process, and it involves some inner reflection among stakeholders and some honesty, backed by action.
It’s important we all learn from our mistakes, and ignoring them is never an option.