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Small shops face extinction

INNER suburban shopping centres are dying and leaving in their wake vandalised, crime-riddled skeletons, which, in turn, have a negative effect on the surrounding suburb.

The first shops to disappear have been the strata title shopping centres. Strata titles have often stifled any move to redevelop or refurbish the shopping centre site to meet the changing needs of the community.

According to FPDSavills leasing director Craig Wilson, strata titling retail shopping centres is the worst thing a developer could do because it is simply a nightmare to get anything done.

Mr Wilson is equally as dismissive of the current vogue of Government and State planners to introduce the concept of liveable neighbourhoods, which stems from the US concept of new urbanism.

Central to liveable neigh-bourhoods’ ideology is the concept of introducing urban villages, with the commercial and retail precinct as the centre of the village. The idea is to remove the reliance on the motor vehicle and bring back the feeling of community.

Yet, according to Mr Wilson, what the planners of today are doing is no more than a repeat of the mistakes of previous decades.

It is those shops in the centre of communities that are struggling.

Mr Wilson believes shops should be focused on main artery roads, with easy parking and high passing traffic.

“If people have to fight their way through a maze of roads dealing with roundabouts and culs-de-sacs they simply will be turned off...people want easy access,” he said.

Geoff Baldwin, managing director of real estate firm the Geoff Baldwin Team, believes that within 10 years the small suburban shopping centre will be largely extinct.

“The local community needs to be consulted about how these shopping centres can be redeveloped for alternative uses by the community,” Mr Baldwin said.

He believes a co-ordinated State and Local Government plan should be put in place to allow for the rezoning of the shopping centre sites.

Urban design expert and consultant to the Ministry for Planning, Urbanizma director Patric de Villiers said he thought the Ministry was trying to ensure the mistakes of the past were not incorporated within liveable neighbourhoods.

“I am still concerned, and it has been a problem…particularly in America, they have included a fair amount of local commercial use mixed in with the housing and they have found it difficult to find retailers to go into those places,” Mr de Villiers said.

“They (the Ministry for Planning) are certainly very aware of it and I would suggest that they would try to put shopping centres on connecting roads with passing trade.

“They tended to locate their local centres on connector roads, rather than in the middle of the suburbs, where there is nothing around.”

WA Retailers Association CEO Martin Dempsey said a lot of Perth’s landlords in the small suburban centres were trying to raise rents to make up for the empty shops in their centres.

“They are making it less worthwhile for people to stay in their centres,” Mr Dempsey said.

“Our suburban shopping centres are not keeping up with customer expectations.

“We have to inject some more capital into these shopping centres, beautify them.”

Mr Dempsey said these landlords should be creative to try and fill any empty glass in their centres.

Some centres have had shops vacant for more than 18 months.

“They should think about offering empty shops to Government or Local Government agencies on cheap rentals. Set up places where people can come and pay their council rates or Government bills.

“They could think about turning the empty spaces into business incubators. If the business becomes viable, then the landlord can work towards setting up a lease.

“But we may need to lose some of these centres altogether.”

City Beach Boulevard Shopping Centre owner Tom Galopoulos said he had not raised rents in his shop for the past two years.

He also runs the supermarket within the shopping centre, so sees first hand how hard it is for his tenants.

“If your tenants aren’t making any money, then you won’t have any tenants,” Mr Galopoulos said.

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