This is an excerpt of a letter written to then Bendigo mayor, councillor Julie Rivendell, by Bendigo resident Kevin Doyle in August 2007.
Hargreaves Mall, which by location should be the hub, is more inviting to an undesirable element than it is to shoppers.
These problems need to be addressed prior to any money being wasted trying to promote an area that is simply not up to scratch.
The CBD is never going to be completely enclosed, climate controlled or provided with free parking.
Therefore, work has to be done to make the most of its positive features so that it is a desirable destination.
I feel that it has enormous potential that can be taken advantage of.
The council has proven that they have the ability to do this.
A good example of where they played a significant role in turning an area around is View Street.
Simply by putting a veranda over the footpath the whole “feel” of View Street changed.
This in turn gave confidence and encouraged other people to invest in the area.
The changes have breathed new life into that precinct.
We need to recognise that Bendigo has developed way beyond the level of a large country town.
It is now on the cusp of being a very significant regional city.
With our history and buildings, geographic location, train services to Melbourne, proximity to many other fine and interesting areas and our population growth, it is even more important that the opportunity to revitalise the CBD be taken now.
With this in mind there are three areas that council needs to consider carefully.
Is the council setting a good example with the property they own? Is it attractive to shoppers, and is the money which is about to be spent on the Hargreaves Street mall going to attract shoppers back to the CBD and contribute to the amenity of the area?
If you take commercial shopping centres as an example, generally the shopping centre is advertised as a destination and the shops advertise themselves.
The shopping centres take responsibility for keeping the area clean, well lit, warm and a pleasant place to visit and shop.
I see the Hargreaves Mall refurbishment as the project that has the potential to elevate the CBD and Bendigo to the next level, it is really the hub of the city.
In my view neither the previous or current design will satisfy that requirement.
I am repeating what I said in a previous submission (dated May 16, 2006) that the mall needs to be attractive to shoppers not louts.
It needs to be roofed in a way that is sensitive to existing buildings and the “feel” of the city.
It needs to be a comfortable place to visit and it needs to be locked up after business hours as are other walks and arcades in the CBD.
Development of the mall could be done in stages.
The first stage would be to roof it and make it secure at night. Approximate cost for steel work and transparent roofing is in the vicinity of what the council intends to spend on the current design and still not solve the problem.
In fact large screen TV screens will do nothing more than cause additional problems.
The large screen was removed from Swanston Street in Melbourne because it was a failure.
The second stage would be construction of a row of specialty shops down the centre of the mall.
I feel very strongly that we are at a time when we need to get this right.
If the council goes ahead with the current plan for the mall it will have wasted a lot of money and set back development/success of the CBD when it has the perfect opportunity right now to develop it into an area that we can be proud of.