Article originally posted in the Herald Sun Friday 5th July
Toorak Village traders are calling for a drastic “empty shop levy” to stop the demise of shopping strips.
Tony Fialides, president of the village’s traders association, said the levy would encourage landlords to fill vacant shops, thereby lifting visitors to the strip.
He said malls, internet shopping, stagnant wage growth and changes in spending had traditional shopping strips struggling.
Mr Fialides suggested Stonnington Council could increase the levy every month a store was left vacant and set it “at a rate which is punitive enough to incentivise the landlord to meet the market and have the property tenanted”.
“Small businesses are really suffering and they need outside help,” he said.
“It’s about why landlords aren’t making shops available at affordable rent, or at the least keeping them presentable.”
Mr Fialides called on the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning to reduce activity centre zones, many of which “had empty shopfronts for many years”, and Victoria Police to have a more “consistent visible presence”.
“Record vacancy levels and increasingly unsightly shopping strips … can lead to negative perceptions of an area and related anti-social behaviour and increases in crime,” he said.
“Rather than accepting this is simply a consequence of change we can’t stop, we as individuals and as a group have a responsibility to the public who use these precincts to ensure they are well presented, appealing and safe.
“We need to start saving these shopping strips … they are the heartland of the residents’ areas.”
A similar empty shop levy exists in Darwin’s CBD and the State Government introduced a vacant residential land tax to inner and middle Melbourne municipalities on properties that were vacant for more than six months in 2018.
Stonnington Mayor Steve Stefanopoulos said the council was developing an action plan to “help reduce the number of vacant shops in retail precincts” later this year.
“We’ve been talking to business associations, real estate agents, landlords, businesses and retail experts to get their insights about how we can best achieve this,” he said.
DELWP has been contacted for comment.
If you would like to contact Tony Fialides to add to the conversation call 0419 005 052
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