28/11/2014 - 16:12

Row impedes NW transformation

28/11/2014 - 16:12
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The state’s investment in Finbar’s Pelago property development may have become the subject of recent controversy, but some in Karratha’s small business community are in no doubt that the strategy is good for the Pilbara.

Blanche Bar at Finbar's Pelago development in Karratha

The state’s investment in Finbar’s Pelago property development may have become the subject of recent controversy, but some in Karratha’s small business community are in no doubt that the strategy is good for the Pilbara.

Blanche Bar owner Bart Parsons, whose business was one of the first to take a lease in Pelago, said negative press about state investment could also stifle a new venture he is planning in a similar commercial and residential project marked for South Hedland.

Mr Parsons and Soul Cafe owner Beth Corps, whose small business was the first to open at Pelago in 2012, said a combination of government investment and falling commercial rents at the project had helped transform the resources-dependent town.

New restaurants, a frozen yoghurt shop, party hire business, as well as legal, insurance and dental businesses have opened at Pelago recently; and all but one of the remaining tenancies are being negotiated for by businesses, including a day spa and a women’s retail boutique.

Ms Corps said in the past three months she’d noticed a considerable pick-up in people and business.

“It’s probably the best time to be investing in a small business and the best time for the government to be investing in the town centre to help small businesses,” she said.

Mr Parsons, who became Soul Café’s neighbour two years ago when he opened Karratha's only small bar, said negative press about the government’s $30 million investment in 50 Pelago apartments was short sighted.

“The good side of what’s come of (the investment) is small businesses are opening up and the Pilbara is changing from a mining region to being somewhere people actually want to live,” Mr Parsons said.

He is now readying a second venture to open at Pelago in April, a gourmet deli called Fiorita, which will offer a range of cheeses, meats, smallgoods and takeaway meals.

Mr Parsons is confident there will be a demand from the corporate visitors who often frequent Blanche Bar as well as Karratha’s residents.  

However, his plans to open a third business in the Pilbara are now up in the air.

Mr Parsons has already signed a 10-year lease with a 10-year option for his second planned bar, Rambla.

However, last month the government withdrew financial support for the South Hedland project – to feature 104 apartments and 17 commercial spaces – where Mr Parsons planned to open the upmarket bar.

“There’s such a tide of bad publicity against these projects, but there are these success stories which are coming from the government putting money on the line and it is a little bit risky but ... the money does come from here so why not reinvest it and make things liveable,” Mr Parsons said.

Following conditional approvals and an instalment of $19.6 million to buy 38 apartments at The Junctions on Colebatch, the state government terminated the agreement on November 5.

It said developer Sunview Nominees had failed to meet pre-sales targets, statutory approvals and finance conditions.

Sunview Director Mike Jessop told Business News he was looking for bulk investors in the Asian market and considering staging the build so the commercial aspect, including a planned medical centre was built first.

"Obviously we've got some sales and people like Bart are keen...we have an obligation to Landcorp and WA Country Health to deliver their medical centre and that's already a signed, sealed and delivered sale," Mr Jessop said.

Last December Business News featured Mr Parson's efforts to open an upmarket small bar far from Perth, including its unique cost pressures and the logistics of running a small business in the Pilbara that relies on fresh goods.

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