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City council silent over Central Market Arcade developer

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Adelaide City Council has narrowed down a developer to construct a new Central Market Arcade, traders and a councillor claim, amid concerns shop owners have been left in the dark over plans to expand the ageing precinct into a multi-million dollar shopping centre and high-rise building.

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According to one Central Market Arcade shop owner, the city council informed traders “about three or four months ago” that it had selected a developer to lead the building’s redevelopment, but it is refusing to reveal a name or a construction start date.

It comes after north ward councilor Phil Martin revealed in a draft question on notice that a “senior member of the administration announced that a developer had been selected by the City of Adelaide to construct the new Central Market Arcade Project” while speaking at a public forum last month.

But the city council has refused to confirm that it has narrowed down on a developer, with associate director of property and commercial Tom McCready instead telling InDaily “the selection of a joint partner is subject to Council consideration and is anticipated in December”.

Adelaide City Council took control of the arcade – which hasn’t been redeveloped since the 1960s – in September last year when the building’s ground lease expired.

An expression of interest process was launched in 2017 to find a developer for the site.

Construction is anticipated to begin next year, when the current tenant leases are due to expire.

All up, the council would own and manage 6000 square-metres of retail space and 260 public car parks and loading areas on the ground-floor, with a developer to manage all above ground-level space.

In September last year traders were offered a two-year lease with a six month redevelopment clause, but there is confusion about when traders will be asked to vacate the building, with some anticipating they will still be trading at Christmas next year and others expecting to leave as soon as January.

Central Market Kiosk owner Theo Kalogerinis told InDaily the council had done “very little” to convince traders to stay at the arcade, with uncertainty about when they would be forced to vacate the building forcing some to leave prematurely.

He said since the beginning of this year five traders had left the arcade, with another soon to vacate.

“Some have walked away because their lease has expired – they couldn’t negotiate with the council so they’ve walked away,” he said.

“They’re not doing enough in terms of keeping the shops running right up to the development.

“We come to work everyday not knowing what’s going to happen.”

Kalogerinis said he received an email “three or four months ago” from the council announcing that it had selected a developer, but it had refused to say who the developer was or when construction was likely to start.

He said he had last attended a meeting to update traders about the redevelopment eight months ago, but the information sessions had since been delayed.

“We were supposed to get an update in October, but received nothing, and another in November, but we haven’t got anything this month yet either,” he said.

“When we did have meetings they were saying the same stuff, just stringing us along, keeping us in the dark and really nothing’s changed.

“I think they’ve got to say something soon at least about whether they’re going to go ahead or not because people are getting concerned.”

Kalogerinis said his lease would end early next year, but he was unsure whether he would continue trading beyond that date.

“Until I’ve got something on paper I’ll wait to figure out where I’m going to go, but at the moment I might just take a break,” he said.

The Central Market Arcade hasn’t been redeveloped since the 1960’s. Photo: Tony Lewis / InDaily

Another trader, who wished to remain anonymous, told InDaily their sales had plummeted by more than 25 per cent since the beginning of this year, with the closure of neighbouring shops luring shoppers away.

The trader said the city council had banned shops from displaying “closing down” signs because “they don’t want it to look like they’re forcing you to close down”.

“It gives you the impression from the council that they don’t support you,” the trader said.

“There have been six shops that have closed down – Global Village, the health food shop and some of the shoe shops – and indirectly it’s affected buying behaviour.

“It’s so quiet in the arcade. It used to be like you couldn’t walk straight just to avoid the crowds, but now you can walk wherever you want.”

The trader said the council had “dragged out” its process to select a developer and had not provided certainty about the site’s future.

“A lot of the traders are losing hope and faith and it’s very demoralising – always questioning what am I going to do next?,” the trader said.

“I want to try and find a place nearby to retain my customers but please, come on, give me some clear directions.

“All that we have now is speculation, there’s no black and white.”

McCready told InDaily this morning that construction could start in mid-2021, commencing with demolition.

He said council staff had been engaging “regularly” with stakeholders and would continue to do so ahead of the arcade redevelopment.

“We have a dedicated redevelopment website and have been providing ongoing marketing and promotional support to Central Market Arcade traders since September 2018,” McCready said.

“The Lord Mayor also hosted forums in May and in late October which included updates on the redevelopment.

“We remain excited about this opportunity to deliver a flagship mixed use development that will revitalise and stimulate economic and social outcomes for the city.”

InDaily asked the council to confirm if it had banned outgoing traders from displaying “closing down” signs in their shops but did not receive a response.

Martin said traders and the public “have a right to expect more openness and transparency from their city instead of their secret society we’ve become”.

“If the Arcade traders are saying they’ve known for months there’s only one bidder/developer in the picture, if a public meeting was told the same thing last month, then Council has a responsibility to share more broadly the detail of the proposed project, including plans, if there are any,” he said.

“We have an obligation to make sure not only traders have all the information they need to plan their lives but we also have a responsibility to every business in that Precinct to tell them when and for how long their businesses will be disrupted by what will be a construction site.”

In April, InDaily revealed the council expected to spend $24,031,201 in 2020-21 and 2021-22 to cover the cost of the arcade redevelopment, according to draft budget papers.

The council estimated a developer would contribute a further $27 million to build above the ground-floor retail space, bringing the total cost to more than $51 million.

The draft papers anticipated the redevelopment would boost the council’s coffers significantly, with the end market value of the ground-floor development anticipated to come in at $72 million.

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