Many shops along Limestone St are for lease, and it’s not just a result of the floods. Photo: Claudia Baxter
Many shops along Limestone St are for lease, and it’s not just a result of the floods. Photo: Claudia Baxter

Struggle to attract small business

THE stark challenge still facing Ipswich’s CBD can be highlighted by taking a short stroll along one street.

Limestone St, in the heart of the city, has 12 for lease signs on shop windows in the space of 40 metres.

They are all found near the former court house and flood- ruined Coles store.

Some of the abandoned sites include a former Bendigo Bank branch and closed Darby’s pie store, as well as several shopfronts in Tower Central.

While the lack of tenants in some buildings is due to flood damage, many premises have not had tenants since last year.

Cheryl Kermond, of First National Real Estate, the agent for several of the sites, said the reason for the empty floor space was simple – small business owners were not interested in Ipswich.

“The city is struggling to attract small business at present and the floods did not help,” she said.

“It’s a difficult market in Ipswich. The global financial crisis is not over and that area of the CBD is struggling.

“The landlords want to offer incentives for potential business owners. Those sites could actually be a good deal for someone.

“Some of those Limestone St buildings are heritage sites and that makes them difficult to sell also.

“But I think that street will improve and in time it will be thriving.”

Ipswich Chamber of Commerce president Michael Munt said retail was not performing well in Ipswich, but it had nothing to do with the city itself.

“The lack of retail businesses opening was caused by a sequence of events. We had the financial crisis and then the floods came,” Mr Munt said.

“There’s nothing wrong with the area, it’s just an unfortunate sequence of events.

“Long term, the city will bounce back. There is some short-term pain being felt right now though.”

One of the popular businesses in Limestone Street is the Hoe Inn cafe.

The restaurant’s owner, Bev McConochie, said she would not open a new business in the street now.

“You would have to think very hard about opening business in the Ipswich CBD at the moment,” she said.

“We would think twice about it now. The shop behind us just left to go somewhere else.

“It’s a worry because our business needs the foot traffic, but we are doing well.”

Tower Central, located between Limestone and Bell Sts, has not been able to find tenants for the majority of its retail space.

There are five shopfronts on ground level remaining, although the site’s office space on its upper floors is practically sold out.

“Ipswich is in a transitional phase. Office space is selling but retail space is a hard-sell now,” Ms Kermond said.

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