Armidale mall: What the regional council did wrong

Following an invitation to the executive of Council's meeting on November 29, to view their Concept Design for the Mall, I saw that a survey of mall businesses had not been done, and was necessary to determine usage, problems and what they would like to see in a “Vibrant” Mall. I use the word “Vibrant” in inverted commas, because so many were scratching their heads at the perception that the Mall is dead, business is not doing well and that it needs a radical overhaul. They hadn't been asked! Yes there are empty shops in the Central Mall – used as pop-up shops for various special-purpose events and at Christmas time. There are empty shops in the East Mall with a road at their door and the road has made NO difference.

I fail to understand how the particular proposal favoured by these executives came into being. We have fabulous architects, designers, all in and from the Armidale region, who appear to have not had a chance for input into this vital project. Our own style is filtered out to Australia, and to the world through them, and loved.

Our community has had no chance for input into the design, and they have brilliant ideas! There is an amazing variety of successful businesses in the mall, I counted 29 types of them, who use the Mall themselves on a daily basis, observe how others use the Mall and hear and see the reactions of visitors and tourists to our Mall. They need to be heard. The survey says: 'No', we don't need a road, (31 of 44 surveyed).

Sadly no votes at all for the placement of that stage, dubbed 'the carwash'. Some people didn't mind the structure as an artistic concept but absolutely not there. An early suggestion of a movable stage has really taken off, as it can be stored safely away in a council shed when not in use. Many people noted that whilst the Mall is now extended to 3 blocks, the stage really only caters for 1 block, and that it was unfair to the others, who have as much right and need for special events in their area.

My heart goes out to our newly elected council, as they have been asked to deal with three unhappy issues, decided on before their election, in succession: A Christmas celebration at which the lights weren't actually turned on, the 'Concept' shop, and the New Years Eve debacle where the 9pm fireworks were done at 8.40pm, leaving so many children left out, and no midnight fireworks for some obscure reason that could have been dealt with in a fashion that was fair to the community.