CBD traders plead with residents to use Nicholas St mall
THREE of the CBD's core traders have appealed to the public to use what's left of the CBD as work on the Nicholas St mall continues.
Ipswich CBD staple Terry White Chemmart's pharmacist Todd Slater said the construction activity had not helped, but said the business was very lucky to have loyal customers.
"Dad opened the shop in 1979 - it's 40 years old this year - and we still have customers that walked through the door on day one. That's the main thing that's kept us going; the loyalty of Ipswich customers," he said.
"Dad opened the shop on Bell St and it moved about 10 or so years after that next to where Woolworths was, then when they started this redevelopment that's when we had to move (to where we are now) because that old site was getting demolished."
He said trade began to take a downward turn with the opening of Riverlink in 2007.
"The catalyst would have been Riverlink opening, things were on a decline after that point. I started in the business after 2011, and since that point we had been told the redevelopment was imminent; in the coming months.
"But it was only when we moved in 2017 they started breaking ground and getting a move on.
"Things stopped when the council was dismissed, it took a little bit of time to get (contractor) Hutchies back on site.
"Now it seems to be moving at a rapid pace ... since we've moved here there's been a big decrease in foot traffic."
Mr Slater has kept his chin up through the works and said the business had dug its heels in but urged the public to get in and take advantage of what was left.
"We'll definitely be here, there are no ifs or buts about it. We'll be here, we're resilient ... we would like it to be sooner but hopefully Easter it's all ready to go with new retail and food and beverage," he said.
"Just come in, there's some really hard working business owners and local people ... working their butts off. If we can support them it's a nice close-knit community. Get behind the local people giving it a crack."
Susi Ellul at QRI Banjo's Bar has been working in town for two years and has seen "dramatic" changes in that time.
She said a lunchtime crowd of 10 was a slow day.
"Dramatically it has dropped. A lot of people think we are not open still due to the roadworks. That's the hardest part of it all," she said.
Ms Ellul said Banjo's had tried specials, opening earlier to bring in workers and increased signage in an effort to get the word out.
Pauline Williamson at Ipswich City Mall Newsagents said she had been waiting on the redevelpment work for two-a-half years now.
"It's pathetic what (the council) has done to this place - they keep saying they're revamping the shops, they empty them out, ones that were a little bit of a drawcard to the rest of us (like Chinese Asian Cuisine - which closed in April) but haven't done anything, they've left them empty," she said.
"It's been a long time this place has been a semi-ghost town ... I'm here a minimum of 12 hours a day, I see what goes on and what doesn't go on."
Ms Williamson said the drawn out timeline of the project had affected all of the traders negatively.
"You struggle to pay the rent, you have to pay the rent before you put the key in the door, plus you need money to turn the lights on, pay wages, buy stock - it's a major struggle every day and it is getting harder.
"The only thing that saves us is the council workers and the Icon building. On a Saturday you could fire a canon up this place and not hit a body.
"If this keeps up much longer I'll have to shut the doors.
"(The mall will) be beautiful when it's done, having the library here will be a major drawcard ... I figure it will look amazing, I'm just hoping it will bring people back into the CBD, it's such a beautiful CBD."
Ms Williamson has pleaded for the council to 'crack the whip' with the contractors so traders can finally get some foot traffic again.
LUNCHES AND MARKETING TO KEEP CBD ALIVE
IPSWICH City Council has lamented the side effects of the Nicholas St mall refurbishment and is working towards helping the remaining businesses survive.
The council's general manager for co-ordination and performance Sean Madigan said the sheer size of the project had reduced pedestrian traffic.
"One of the downsides of building something of this size is that access to the surrounding shops becomes restricted, and ultimately traders pay the price when foot traffic subsides," he said.
"We're aware that in Nicholas St, there are still 14 businesses who are determined to see out the remainder of construction.
"When paving along Nicholas St is completed late December, they'll see fencing come down and as more work is done to facades, streetscaping, street furniture and lighting, the street will slowly start to come alive."
He was confident that come the end of the year, traders would see the rewards for their patience.
"This is when they'll reap the rewards for their extremely high level of resilience," Mr Madigan said.
"But first thing's first; we know traders will continue to do it tough in the coming months.
"Council has deployed a team who have been tasked with keeping traders updated every step of the way.
"We're also ensuring contractors are doing their best to provide the best possible access to shops during construction."
Among encouraging tradies to 'eat local' while in the CBD, the council will also be posting marketing, ensuring the general public are aware of what is still open.
"And we're trying to implement a few marketing tools, including visible signage, to help maximise traffic flow as best we can," Mr Madigan said.
"It is a difficult time, but now that contractors are at full speed, I think everybody is starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel."
In August the council launched the 'tradie lunch scheme' with the beginnings of heavy works around the mall.
The promotion aimed to persuade tradies to stream into the struggling CBD businesses while the redevelopment was under way.
They were offered a "tradies pack" and issued with a "VIP Card" to receive discounts from food and drink outlets.
LIMITED VARIETY LEFT IN THE CITY FOR LOCALS
SEVEN ground floor mall frontage tenancies remain operating in the CBD, while 13 mall frontage tenancies remain vacant.
Many of the core traders, or those still hanging on, have moved from one side of the mall to the other to cope with construction.
Still operating in the mall are QRI Banjo's Bar, Ipswich City Mall Newsagents, Dominique's Café, Granny's Kitchen, Trottie Beckie, New Age Rockz n Stuff and Terry White Chemmart.
Already this year several businesses have been forced to finish trading in the CBD, including BCC Ipswich City Cinemas, which had been operating for more than 50 years in the city, Chinese Asian Cuisine, which had been open 24 years, and Charlie's Bar and Kitchen, which only traded for about six months.
Convenience store NightOwl only lasted 10 months in its CBD location.
The QT understands the store had trouble operating due to the CBD renovations and decreased foot traffic and that NightOwl had approached several local parties to take up franchising the store.
Other Ipswich businesses that have closed this year include the once popular Cactus Espresso Bar, Gemulitch, Arcadia Greek restaurant, Urban Pantry, Crossroad Books and Nu Orleans Burlesque Lounge.
PILING WORKS IN CBD ALMOST COMPLETE
THE finish line is in sight for crews working on the new-look mall.
A large pile drilling rig has been on site since mid-September to create the foundations for council's new administration building, library and the civic plaza.
More than 130 holes had to be drilled to a depth of 12-15m before being reinforced with steel and filled with concrete.
This will allow for a fresh foundation slab to be laid before work starts on upper floors.
Work with the piling rig is expected to be completed this week and the equipment removed from site, which will mean reduced noise disruption for nearby residents.
The first green shoots in the precinct have also started to appear with several established fig trees and irrigation systems installed along Nicholas St and Union Pl.
Considerations by the Nicholas St project team, along with landscaping professionals at Vee Design, included the need for maximum shade, hardy and reliable species that will stay green and leafy year round with little maintenance.
A workforce of 60 is now operating on site. This is expected to grow to about 200 by the start of 2020. Businesses in the Nicholas St precinct will remain open during construction.