End of the road for small shops

THE trend towards mega shopping centres during the past five years has meant that tenants are vacating many smaller centres in Perth suburbs leaving in their wake derelict, empty shopping centres.

It follows a similar trend in the US where small community shopping strips have been disappearing.

According to Geoff Baldwin Team managing director Geoff Baldwin the situation has reached a point where it is necessary for political intervention.

Within 10 years Mr Baldwin believes the small suburban shopping centre will be largely extinct.

Mr Baldwin believes both major political parties should put forward plans on how to stop the decay of smaller shopping centres in the election campaign. A coordinated State Government and local Government plan should be put in place to allow for the rezoning of the shopping centre sites. The Government could provide an incentive to strata title owners to do something different with the property.

“These smaller shopping centres are becoming eyesores and centres for antisocial activity in our communities. The vacant shops are becoming a focal point for graffiti, binge drinking and drug abuse and vandalism,” Mr Baldwin said.

“In the northern suburbs, for example, the massive development of the Whitfords Shopping Centre, Joondalup City and Currumbine has resulted in a number of smaller shopping centres becoming virtually redundant.

“These smaller shopping centres include Kallaroo, the original Beldon Shops, Connolly and Heathridge to highlight just a few.

“These smaller shopping centres have played an important community role in previous years. In contrast, today they are becoming a focus of crime.”

Mr Baldwin believes that the smaller shopping centres are strategically located in the heart of the suburb so any deterioration has a ripple effect on the whole suburb.

“People are proud of their local community and these older shopping centres are becoming an embarrassment and visual eyesore,” he said.

“The local community needs to be consulted about how these shopping centres can be re-developed for alternative uses by the community.”

Mr Baldwin said one solution could be to reduce the size of these centres to two or three shops and to redevelop the land for residential or retirement accommodation.

Naturally, the financial investment of the current owners of these shops would need to be considered carefully,” Mr Baldwin said.

Property Council of Australia WA chief executive Joe Lenzo said the Government should keep out of propping up small centres by restricting the growth of the larger shopping centres.

“I think it’s a joke, it’s not a function of Government to prop up dying businesses.

You can’t prop up something like that,” he said.

“What we are saying is that in the end the customer and the market place has to determine what facilities we provide for the customer.”

Mr Lenzo said the problem was often self inflicted because the shopping centre failed to keep up with the times and the changing demographics in the area.

For some shopping centres the traditional newsagent, butcher and bakery may not be the answer anymore, he said.

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