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.
Rail line grows three times faster than state average
THE number of passengers travelling on Springfield’s rail line has grown almost three times faster than the state network average.
In a glimmer of good news for Ipswich’s public transport situation, new data shows 1.09 million passengers travelled on the Richlands Springfield Central line in the 2017-18 financial year.
Springfield Central was the most popular station, with 482,913 passengers.
Rail Back on Track spokesman Robert Dow said the figures were good news for Ipswich’s busy eastern corridor.
“It’s good people are using the system and it adds momentum for improvements to the bus network to get people to and from the station,” he said.
Since the 2016-17 financial year, patronage across the state’s rail network has grown 3.36 per cent.
Growth at Springfield Central has outstripped the average by recording an 8.13 per cent increase.
“Springfield looks good,” Mr Dow said.
While passenger numbers are positive at Springfield, other rail lines remain underutilised, Mr Dow said.
“It’s been pretty bad on the Ipswich-Rosewood line,” he said.
In the previous financial year, 1.77 million passengers used the line.
It was the first time in five years the network has recorded an increase in growth after a steady decline in numbers from a height of 2.1 million in 2012-13.
Mr Dow puts the most recent increase partly down to a new fare structure and regional growth.
“The population is increasing generally and people at Redbank Plains and places like that are driving to the Ipswich rail line,” he said.
Mr Dow said improvements still needed to be made on the region’s bus network.
He said park ‘n’ ride facilities at stops along the network were at capacity. Ipswich Station had the highest passenger fall, with 23,389 people deserting the track.
Redbank was the most improved station, with passenger numbers growing about 19,000 on the previous year, to 229,145.
“It’s good to see Rosewood has got growth – people are starting to use the Ipswich to Rosewood line,” Mr Dow said.
He said the passenger number information should be made free on the Translink website.
“TMR should make this sort of data available,” he said. “Having to pay $48 for this is fairly outrageous.”
Queensland’s $46 Billion Infrastructure Boom
The Palaszczuk Government has released an update to its 2018 State Infrastructure Plan as it aims to roll-out a total of $45.8 billion worth of infrastructure over the next four years.
The second part of its State Infrastructure Plan (SIP) focuses on a range of infrastructure spending with its updated release, outlining the $11.6 billion of infrastructure investment to be rolled out in 2018-19, which aims to support up to 38,000 jobs.
Economic forecaster Deloitte Access Economics said that the outlook for engineering construction in Queensland is better than it has been for some time.
“Rather than wallowing in cash from a strong property market and asset privatisations as NSW and Victoria are, the Government is relying more heavily on raising new tax revenue and increasing debt to fund this infrastructure,” Deloitte’s quarterly Business Outlook report said.
Up to 65 per cent of the Queensland’s infrastructure budget is allocated outside of the greater Brisbane area, explained Minister for State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning Cameron Dick.
“Programs like the Queensland Transport Roads and Investment Program 2018-19 to 2021-22 outlines $21.7 billion in transport and road infrastructure over the next four years, estimated to support an average of 19,200 direct jobs over the life of the program.
The $5.4 billion Cross River Rail project, the biggest state funded infrastructure commitment in more than a decade, will be delivered in partnership with the private sector, explains Dick.
Infrastructure Association of Queensland chief executive Steve Abson said the infrastructure investment strategies update provides the private sector with confidence to invest in their Queensland operations.
With it now required to be “actioned collaboratively by all levels of government and the private sector”.
Seven new projects have been added to the Building Queensland (BQ) infrastructure pipeline, including upgrades to the centenary motorway and Sunshine Motorway, and a third track to be added to the Gold Coast rail line between Kuraby and Beenleigh.
BQ Infrastructure Pipeline Report which presents priority infrastructure proposals under development by the Queensland government, shows 18 proposals from the pipeline has received funding commitments from state government since June 2016.
These include upgrades to the M1 from Eight Mile Plains to Daisy Hill, and Varsity Lakes to Tugan, the Beerburrum to Nambour Rail Upgrade, the Lower Fitzroy River Infrastructure Project and the New Performing Arts Venue.
A rise in interstate migration is seeing more people moving to Queensland, according to the Deloitte’s Business Outlook report, which says the sunshine state now has the third-fastest rate of population growth behind Victoria and the ACT.
The report said that Queensland is “well and truly” through the worst of its mining construction downturn as eye-watering house prices south of the border are sending more “economic refugees north to Queensland”.
Five Ipswich public high schools to get new classrooms
The State Government will commit $250 million over two years in the State Budget to build additional classrooms at more than 60 schools including Bremer, Ipswich State High School, Laidley State High School, Lowood State High School and Springfield.
Deputy Premier and Treasurer, Jackie Trad, said the ‘2020 Ready’ funding boost would support students in more than 60 Queensland high schools across the State.
“Our kids are our future and, as a government, one of the most important things we can do is give Queensland students a world-class education,” Ms Trad said.
“This investment will deliver more classrooms and learning centres to provide the best possible environment for learning.
“Queensland is a fast-growing State and this investment is about planning for the future.”
Education Minister Grace Grace said in 2020, for the very first time in Queensland’s history, high schools would have a full complement of students across Years 7 to 12.
“This infrastructure program is about making sure we are ‘2020 Ready’,” Ms Grace said.
“This $250 million investment will ensure our schools can accommodate the additional 17,000 students expected in our high schools from 2020 and into the future.
“It brings the total funding commitment towards increasing the capacity of state secondary schools to more than $470 million between 2017-18 and 2019-20.”
Ms Grace said the ‘2020 Ready’ program signals the next phase of Queensland’s major education reforms, which started more than a decade ago.
“Queensland’s first intake of Preppies were those whose birthdays were in the first half of the calendar year – so theirs has always been a much smaller cohort of students, known as the ‘half cohort’,” she said.
“Our next educational reform came in 2015, when we moved Year 7 into high school and established six years of secondary education, which was also supported with significant infrastructure investment.
“However, our smaller ‘half cohort’ has been in high school since 2015 too – meaning we have never had the full complement of students across all six year levels in our secondary schools.
“With the original Prep students set to graduate from high school at the end of 2019, we will have – for the very first time – six full year levels of students in Queensland secondary schools from 2020.
“This new $250 million investment for additional classrooms will prepare those schools identified as requiring additional capacity for the additional students expected in 2020.”