Greater Shepparton City councillors will tonight consider releasing four concept designs for a redeveloped Maude St Mall for public comment.
It marks the latest stage in a long, drawn out discussion on the best ways forward for a precinct hoping to be the central business district’s beating heart.
It’s difficult to argue against action being needed in the strip. From all corners, profit margins have gradually diminished in the past decade, along with foot traffic, making it challenging to operate at all.
And from the outset, the designs submitted by Spiire look promising.
While one imagines it was in line with the design brief handed to the consultancy firm, it is curious that three of the four options involve some form of traffic being re-introduced to the space.
To many who have followed this discussion, it seems unusual that so much emphasis is being put on returning cars to the mall, especially when there seems to be mixed information and case studies as to how definitively this would improve trade and activity.
Perhaps it goes to the heart of how drastic the action needed is.
Regardless, it is a bold idea, and public consultation will aim to gauge some indication as to its popularity.
How unanimous any verdict from the consultation process is will be interesting to see — especially given previous consultations on this topic have proved less than perfect, delivering councillors at times an almost even split on favoured ideas.
To complicate matters further, there is the cost associated.
Spending at least $15million on designs destined to give the Shepparton central business district, in particular Maude St Mall, the boost it needs may yet be money well spent.
But we hope the discussion goes beyond what is popular.
We hope evidence of what has been proven to work is also put front and centre in the decision-making process.
We have every faith this is the case.
Whether $15million or $18million worth of improvements end up being made, it is clear they need to be beneficial.
Especially given a significant period of works, and closures to make these happen, may prove detrimental to mall businesses.
As council itself concedes, the issue is a divisive one and it is likely each option will face some form of opposition.
Indications that feedback will support any decision to include particular features favoured in certain designs is welcome, alongside the inventiveness and thought which has gone into some of the features.
Finally, we urge those who use Maude St Mall to have their say on these designs, if councillors vote to release them to the public tomorrow.
The future of the mall will likely be shaped from the feedback offered by the community.