The proposed multimillion-dollar redevelopment of the Wigmore Arcade was finally abandoned by Ballina Council at its meeting last week.
The staff report told councillors what members of the community, including myself, have been telling Council for the last two years: that for the redevelopment they wanted, the numbers don’t add up.
More than $160,000 of ratepayer money has now been spent on five consultants to reach this conclusion.
The unsatisfactory way this Wigmore Arcade redevelopment has been managed raises some serious questions that need to be addressed.
Why has it taken two years to come to such an obvious conclusion?
Why did Council need a paid consultant to explain to it things that are already in our own planning documents, such as floor level requirements for a redevelopment?
Why should Council spend more than $3 million, kicking all the tenants out for a year or so, when the redevelopment was never going to significantly increase the income generated by the arcade?
Instead of learning lessons from this saga, Council staff have now recommended spending another $20,000 on yet another (sixth) consultant to gather quotes to ‘modernise’ the arcade. This includes rebuilding the entirely adequate toilet block, replacing perfectly good windows, and other ‘cosmetic’ upgrades.
It is my view that Ballina Council should let private-sector professionals develop commercial property. The remaining vacant shops will become more attractive to new tenants because the recent purchase of Tamar Street land for additional CBD parking will direct even more potential shoppers through the arcade.
Council should refocus on delivering Ballina’s much-needed community infrastructure projects: an indoor pool, a sports centre, and the long-promised commuter cycleway from East Ballina to Lennox. This is where ratepayer money should be spent.
Cr Jeff Johnson, Lennox Head