Margaret Howes, Empire Vale
Watch out, River Street! It could be about to happen!
Acting on a tip-off given to me in the pub that the Wigmore Arcade shop-owners were closing their businesses and Ballina Council was losing a lot of tenants, I took a walk around town and asked a few questions. After all, as you and I own the Council, they are our tenants too.
My walk produced some very interesting research. Yes, I can confirm that a lot of Council tenants have decided to give their landlord the hooray.
All the leases in the Wigmore precinct expire on December 31 and thereafter tenants are on a month-to-month basis. The tenants still staying put in hope that Ballina Council will renew their leases for a longer term are the ones with massive removal costs of around $100,000 each. The tenants that Council has already lost have either shut down completely, or are in the process of it, or have negotiated three-year leases at half-price rent with other landlords. All told me they were grateful to escape their unfeeling, uncompassionate, unbending Council landlord that treats them so shabbily. After all, no business has a value unless it has a secure place to operate.
The land that Ballina’s early mayor, William Wigmore, bequeathed to Council stretches from 135 to 155 River Street through Wigmore Arcade and includes Tamar Street carpark.
The Council has its Commercial Services Department with a wages bill of around half a million dollars per annum. This department has to be kept busy, and busy it will be at your expense and mine once the redevelopment starts. I fully expect my rates will increase yet again.
Now let’s visualise the great hole in the ground if/when the demolition gets underway. The Wigmore Arcade walkway, which connects River Street to the carpark, will become a construction site and will have to be closed. There will be noise and dust everywhere and nowhere to park a car during the redevelopment stage for at least 18 months.
Meanwhile with Ballina being on a floodplain with low-lying land and a high water-table, we can expect the pile-drivers to arrive with their thumping and banging to create foundations for the new development. This can be guaranteed to produce cracks in neighbouring buildings and massive compensation claims.
You don’t have to be Einstein to see that the redevelopment of the Wigmore site would cost at least $6 million to $8 million. If existing tenants have secured new leases elsewhere for cheaper rents, they are unlikely to return. The Council is pricing itself out as the landlord.
If sea level is predicted to rise 900mm by the end of the century, what will happen to Ballina Island and William Wigmore’s generous bequest? Isn’t it time we ratepayers took a stand, as there’s nothing wrong with the existing development that’s earning us over half a million dollars a year.