THE writing was on the wall for the Ipswich CBD mall in 2016.
For years foot traffic has been dwindling with many blaming paid parking, but the past six months saw a mass exodus of long-term businesses.
One by one shop owners announced they were no longer willing to struggle through in the face of even lower foot traffic and increasingly “under performing stores”.
The biggest shockwave came in October when supermarket giant Woolworths announced it would be leaving the precinct after January 1.
Now the pressure is on the council to follow through with its long awaited redevelopment plans and make 2017 the year the Ipswich mall transformed.
Since August, six long-term businesses have either closed, or announced their intention to do so, based on the lack of foot traffic.
‘Unsavoury characters’ have driven the customers away, they say, while others made a financial decision to close “underperforming stores”.
Shoppers say there’s no reason to go there anymore; even though the remaining business owners would disagree. In November, the council announced its latest plan to transform the Ipswich mall, bringing the people back into the CBD.
It’s the action business owners have been desperately wanting for almost a decade with some saying after countless “consultation” sessions and the announcement of “final plans” they’d almost given up.
“We’ve been earning just enough to cover our costs,” Sue Navie said in August.
“It’s just not worth it anymore.”
Underfashion World owner Kaylene Weier watched friends in similar situations lose their homes and “didn’t want to go through that” herself.
For some savvy business owners, the mall’s demise has been an opportunity to start something new.
Enticed by low rent, a hair and beauty salon has just moved into one of the heritage listed buildings that won’t be demolished in the redevelopment.
A refurbished furniture and homewares business owner jumped at the chance to open a store, making use of the council’s offer of free rent under the Activate Ipswich program.
Now a new bridal shop is rumoured to be moving into one of the CBD retail spaces left by a business moving out mid-January.
Meanwhile, the recently redeveloped ‘Top of Town’ is booming.
A new clothing boutique will open today next door to a fairly new home and giftwares shop which opened in October.
Further down the road is a new pizza shop which has already proven popular, a new beauty salon is a couple of doors down from that and tucked in behind the trendy Heisenberg Haus, is a coffee shop with its own Ipswich roast that opened earlier this year.
That district is likely to become more popular when construction on the new mall starts next year and parking becomes a nightmare.
The council has promised to replace the existing mall with a ‘world class’ food and entertainment precinct worth $150 million.
When unveiling the plans earlier this month, Mayor Paul Pisasale likened the redevelopment to “a phoenix rising from the ashes”.
Construction will start mid-2017 and see the existing Ipswich City Square buildings demolished, the mall opened up to the river, and one-way traffic flow down Nicholas St for the first time in 30-years.
BUDGET: Cash splashed to fix Ipswich’s congested highway
ONE of Ipswich’s worst intersections will be fixed with the Federal Government committing to fund an upgrade to the Cunningham Highway.
In his third budget, Treasurer Scott Morrison revealed $170 million would go towards improving the dreaded Amberley Interchange.
The project will include a realignment of the highway between Yamanto and Ebenezer Creek and an upgrade of the Ipswich-Rosewood Rd.
Expansions and growing military activity at RAAF Base Amberley has put pressure on the interchange.
The $170 million funding injection also comes as the Ipswich City Council considers a proposal from Lantrak to move 1 million tonnes of landfill each year to rehabilitate the New Hope coal mine at Jeebropilly.
According to the application more than 250 heavy vehicles would transit the highway each day.
The government says the Cunningham Highway upgrade will “improve travel reliability and reduce congestion”.
It is expected the Queensland Labor Government will match the funding to start the $340 million project.
Federal Labor MP Shayne Neumann confirmed his party would offer bipartisan support and also commit to fixing the highway in a “major boost for the economic capacity of the Ipswich region”.
“The road takes 2700 heavy vehicle movements a day, and plays a significant role in transporting people and freight between Brisbane and Sydney,” he said.
“These vital upgrades to the Cunningham Highway have long been identified on Infrastructure Australia’s Infrastructure Priority List.
“That’s why it’s disappointing the Turnbull LNP Government have had to be dragged kicking and screaming to fund this project.”
Become an entrepreneur
OLDER residents in Ipswich will be encouraged to become entrepreneurs so they can stay in the workforce longer.
The Federal Government will roll out 20 new entrepreneurship facilitators across the regions over the next four years.
Ipswich, along with central Queensland, Ballina and Tweed, will benefit from the program.
The small business experts will teach mature-age people how to start and maintain sustainable businesses.
The Federal Government has set aside $2.7 million in the 2018-19 financial year for the project.
A further $15 million will fund the program until June of 2022.
The government has also committed to continuing the Job Change project that assists mature-age workers to remain in the workforce as retirement and pension ages creep upwards.
Amberley cashes in on Defence spending
RAAF Base Amberley will take a share in millions of dollars in upgrades in the Defence portfolio.
A new Air Traffic Control Radar will be installed at Amberley as part of an estimated $96 million investment in new technology across several bases.
Working accommodation, maintenance, warehousing and training facilities will be built to support the introduction of the Growler Airborne Electronic Attack Capability aircraft.
The project is scheduled for completion by early 2021.
A C-17 maintenance facility, aircraft apron and associated infrastructure will also be constructed.
It is scheduled for completion by early 2019.
Australia’s largest solar farm planned near Ipswich
Somerset already hosts a number of energy projects including hydroelectric plants at Wivenhoe Dam and Splityard Creek Dam.Contributed
AUSTRALIA’S largest solar farm has been proposed for a rural site near Ipswich.
The proposed plant, east of Harlin along the D’Aguilar Highway, would have final capacity of 1,500 megawatts, six times larger than its closest rival.
Plans include two substations and the capacity to hire to 60 people.
The Sunraysia solar farm in NSW is Australia’s largest under construction, at 250 megawatts.
Other Australian solar farms of up to 1,000 megawatts have been proposed.
Somerset Mayor Graeme Lehmann said it was a complex development application from Ethos Urban planning consultants.
The company has been involved in other large infrastructure projects throughout Australia, on behalf of Sunshine Energy Australia Pty Ltd.
“We understand the attractions of the site include its proximity to the existing high voltage power network and proximity to Brisbane,” Cr Lehmann said.
“The site has been largely cleared in the past and is within one hour of the 570 MW pumped storage hydroelectric plant at Splityard Creek which is also in the Somerset Regional Council area.
“The development application includes two substations, facilities for up to 60 employees and provision for battery storage.”
“The application has been referred to various government departments and agencies for their input and we will carefully assess it against our planning scheme like any other proposal.”
Somerset Regional Council is reviewing the application.
Education City link approved by Ipswich Council
A FOOTPATH that will link Springfield’s Education City to the Robelle Domain Parklands in Springfield Central has been approved by Ipswich City Council.
Plans were lodged by Springfield Land Corporation on February 2 this year and first approved on February 26.
However Ipswich City Council did not approve the use of Hoop Pines to landscape the pathway.
After some negotiating a new decision notice was issued on April 9 with the condition stipulating that Hoop Pines were not to be used deleted.
The land where the pathway is being constructed is lot 810 Sinnathamby Boulevard, Springfield Central.
Described as an open space boulevard pathway, the public concrete path and associated landscaping work has been approved in full subject to conditions.
Footpath lighting is to be installed, and a spotter catcher is to be engaged to supervise vegetation removal and ensure any native fauna including native bees are identified and relocated.
The spotter catcher is to submit a report before and after vegetation clearing works are undertaken detailing what wildlife has been identified and preventative and remedial actions taken to ensure animal safety.