Hay Street’s retail maul

THE Hay Street Mall has always bugged me.

For a long time I knew there was something that didn’t quite work, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.

Perhaps it was time spent working in the canyon of St Georges Terrace, where so many buildings were torn down in the rush to modernise Perth as it boomed in the 1960s.

Whatever it was, something made me look up a few years ago and realise just how many fantastic buildings were left on Hay Street’s Mall.

Unlike Fremantle, which was preserved because developers neglected it, this stretch of Hay Street remains largely intact because of its success.

For a long time, Hay Street has been an important retail and commercial precinct.

With rents unmatched by any other retail space, who could afford to close their buildings too long for extensive renovations?

Hopefully heritage concerns played their part too.

Anyway, since this revelation I have marvelled at the growing array of new things that have kept popping up in this busy hub of the city.

New light poles, trees growing bushier and taller by the month, pedestrian underpasses – basically anything that will distract the eye from the history above or cover it up completely.

Until now, it hasn’t mattered.

Retailers were doing so well in the mall that considering any change was unnecessary.

I recall a Queenslander who came in to run Worths who told me the mall was the best retail area he’d ever seen.

Well, Worths is history now and retailers’ squeals about the city as a venue have grown louder as the suburban centres have had their makeovers and attracted the punters.

Of course, it’s not all about looks, but few people in the early 1980s would have picked Fremantle to be the place it is today.

Revamped heritage buildings combined with shopping and entertainment are a potent mix.

In this respect, it is a pity the CBD lost its chance to link with Northbridge when a riverfront convention centre site was chosen.

Having said that, city retailers still have one of the greatest captive markets on their doorsteps: office workers, many of whom are among WA’s best paid people, and many who don’t mind com-muting home later in the evening if there is an excuse to stay in town.

Ironically, if there is one place I have seen get it right it’s the Civic area of Canberra. That’s right, our boring, windy, cold and bureaucratic capital wins points from me for making its central mall interesting and user friendly with a wonderful array of outdoor cafes.

Let me tell you, the answer is not shops. They just benefit from the extra people.

I look forward to seeing how this upcoming debate on Perth’s malls pans out.

Take it from me, we will follow it closely.

Early access

IF there was any doubt about the WA Government’s keeness to show its economic credentials, then that was publically ended this week.

A wee blunder in letting Access Economics figures out early was all due to enthusiasm over the forecasts contained.

I had a bit of a taste of that last week following my concerns about Government plans to fund its strategies.

A Government adviser called to agree with my assessment that they had been left a mess, but also to take umbrage at any hint of fiscal irresponsibility.

I don’t reckon I ever said they were irresponsible. In fact, I was pointing out that their caution on the finance side was holding back their ability to deliver on their usual social policy strengths.

Some good news on the economy will help them in that respect.

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