IF ANYONE has the right to be grateful to hear the Ipswich Mall is to be redeveloped, it's Bob Slater.
As the Queensland Times revealed this week (right), the next stage of the Ipswich city centre redevelopment is a project called Retail Stage One.
The focus of the $150 million project is demolishing Woolworths in the Mall and replacing the supermarket with an entertainment terrace overlooking River Heart Parklands and a new direct link to the Bradfield pedestrian bridge.
Mr Slater owns the Discount Drug Store beside Woolworths and is one of the mall's longest tenants.
"I've been in Ipswich since 1979 and here for 30-odd years," he said. "I'd be one of the oldest after Woolworths; because Woolworths has always been here. I've got great faith in Ipswich. It just seems to have gone on and on.
"I'm still the CBD Traders president but there's a dwindling number of members."
He is upbeat about the mall redevelopment that will also include 30,000sqm of retail, entertainment and dining outlets.
"It's good to see. This is the same plan that's been around for a while but it's a brilliant plan," he said. "Ipswich will be a fantastic place if we can get this going. There will be pain; people don't come into construction sites, do they. I imagine it's going to get worse before it gets better but the future is good. That's why I'm still here. I'm amazed at the support we get. Ipswich people are so loyal."
Inner-city councillor Andrew Antoniolli said the project was "very exciting".
He said he would work with Ipswich City Properties to help tenants like Bob Slater who stayed loyal to the mall.
"A lot of hard work has gone into establishing the bona fides of this development," he said.
"It's obviously the next stage in the city centre masterplan that was done in 2007 and was the largest community masterplan ever done," he said.
"It will act as one of the catalyst projects for reinvigorating that area and bring business into the area as well. It will also be a catalyst for the culture of inner-city residential living.
"It's anticipated that it will involve opening the mall up to traffic, although it's likely to be one way and one lane."
Mayor Paul Pisasale responded to criticism of the project, including the timeframe and allegations ratepayers would pay for it.
"The most important thing I want people to realise, the reason why this project is in stages over 10-15 years is because there are no ratepayers' funds that will be used in it," Cr Pisasale said.
"Council is not a development company. What we are is a catalyst because Ipswich City Properties was set up because nobody wanted our mall. It was on the market for years and years, we had an owner from Singapore that neglected it; people forget the history.
"Now we're starting to build some life in it. And to rebuild the CBD is not going to happen overnight.
"I need people to understand Ipswich City Properties is a company that's been set up by the council, it is a proprietary limited company that has all directors' responsibilities and the directors are responsible for the loan."