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Ben O'HalloranGeraldton Guardian

Councillor Shane Van Styn has this week put forward a recommendation to council that could see Geraldton’s shabby, empty storefronts revamped.

Cr Van Styn is asking council to consider a new rate be levied on unoccupied buildings in the CBD, which he believes have been “purposefully” made derelict.

“As someone who works in the CBD I am constantly appalled by the state of derelict buildings in the CBD,” he said.

“In my opinion, the reason for so many abandoned buildings lies as a direct result of the actions of a small number of property developers who got caught up in the pre- GFC property boom.

“Now that the GFC has come, and the effects are still lingering with the possibility of worse to come, there is an inability for these people to finance their plans.

“Sadly this has also led them to believe that with the inability to develop comes an abrogation of responsibility to maintain them.”

Cr Van Styn wants a rate levied on premises that have remained unoccupied for a period of six months or more.

He said buildings could be exempt if they were under construction or made to look like they were occupied.

Mid West Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Bill Headley supports the idea and said there needs to be a debate on how to encourage development in the CBD.

“We need to find a mechanism that encourages developers to develop,” he said.

“I understand that at various times there are different economic factors that come to play, but to accumulate land and buildings and then let them deteriorate is a blight on our city and doesn’t engender further economic development.

"In no way am I asking for a hand-out for developers, I am encouraging some debate on how we encourage developers to develop and at the same time ensure that projects are viable so that they don’t fall over.”

Mr Headley said it would require a change of attitude within the banking fraternity, who he said have gone away from property development.

Cr Van Styn’s suggestion also proposes that property owners allow community groups to utilise vacant space.

Geraldton CD Centre owner Marilyn McLeod said the City should explore avenues to revamp old and desolate buildings in the CBD.

“I think it’s a positive attempt to do something,” she said.

“I think it’s a positive thing, but we need to know what the owners of the buildings have planned.

“It could be on the market and if it’s on the market they’re not going to invest anymore money into it.”

Ms McLeod’s shop is next door to an empty building that is awaiting development at the corner of Marine Tce and Durlacher St.

The empty premises is kept clean and colourful posters are stuck to its windows to help brighten it up.

The City of Greater Geraldton was contacted yesterday but declined to comment as the issue has yet to be tabled in a council meeting.


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