Vacancy figures calculated
A rubbery figure in Lismore council’s business paper sent the City Centre Manager and the Chamber of Commerce out pounding the pavement to find out what the real level of shop front vacancy is in the CBD.
In response to a motion by Graham Meineke to rent some vacant shops to local artists, the executive director of sustainable development, Brent McAlister wrote, “With the CBD’s occupancy rate down to 65%, this would present an ideal opportunity to help revitalise the CBD.”
But Chamber chair Brenton Shalders didn’t believe the figure, so last Thursday he walked the CBD block, (excluding the laneways and arcades) and counted only 13 vacant shop fronts.
“There is no way that nearly four out of 10 shops are vacant,” he said. “Blind Freddy could see that 65% just wasn’t true. I thought if I’m going to make any sort of comment, I’d better have an understanding of what vacancy rate actually was... I’m not saying 13 is good, but you start to build a negative view.”
Mr Shalders reckons that if the laneways and arcades were included, the ground level occupancy rate would be around 90%.
Mr McAlister said the 65% figure had come from City Centre Manager Stephen Nelson and had been “anecdotal”.
As a result of the controversy, he requested Mr Nelson walk around the block. Mr Nelson did this on Tuesday morning, with 23 vacant shops counted on the CBD block, including the laneways and arcades.