If you’ve set foot in Geelong’s CBD lately, chances are you’ll have seen more cement trucks, bobcats and workers in hi-vis than people on the street.
This is particularly true for Lt Malop Street, with works underway as part of Geelong’s new joint government – council initiative: Revitalising Central Geelong.
The Laneways Project, which aims to capitalise on the growing inner city entertainment precinct, began construction in May and will see more trees, plantings, alfresco dining and lights installed in central Geelong laneways.
The multi-million dollar project is set to be completed by the end of the year, however businesses say they are feeling the pinch, with a drop in sales due to less foot traffic coming through Lt Malop Street and its surrounding laneways.
Relatively new kids on the block, Downtown Pressed Juices have noticed a dramatic drop in sales and even a huge change in people simply walking down the street due to the construction works.
Downtown area manager Tegan Tresize said passersby weren’t aware their store was open and had mainly been complaining about the noise and the mess that was being made.
“Our walkway was closed off for a part of it, so we had no customers able to get in,” she said. “This morning they had a channel dug and if people wanted to come in they had a board there, but we had to ask them to put it there. People are complaining about the noise and the mess mainly, but they’re doing the best they can.”
Businesses are given plans on a Friday afternoon to know whether or not their shop front will be affected by the construction the following week, but some retailers say this doesn’t prevent the loss of customers.
“Our sales have dropped quite dramatically, really quite a lot, like by half,” Ms Tresize said. “They’ve given us all the final plans and everything and a rough estimation of a finish date, but they told us yesterday that that’s probably not going to be true, we were kind of banking on Melbourne cup, but we don’t know.”
Lt Malop Street cafe Sixty Up Degrees has seen four upgrades on the area in the past 20 years and is owner Su doesn’t believe any of them have made any difference to the patronage coming in and out of the laneway, but hopes that this time it will be different.
“It’s the third or fourth time they have done something like this and not much has really changed” Su said.
“That’s what we hope (to bring more customers), that’s what we’re looking for. This year there’s quite a lot happening, so maybe the disruption will be worth it.”
The Revitalising Central Geelong Facebook page is making sure people are aware businesses are still open by sharing photos with the hashtag #werestilltradingwhilegeelongsupgrading and Downtown Pressed Juices is making the best out of a bad situation.
“I think we’ll just ride it out and see how we go in the warmer months. We’ll have to blackmail all the workers into buying stuff, they’re doing the best they can, so it should be good when its all done,” Ms Tresize said.
Check out what else is in store for the Revitalise Central Geelong Project here