THERE IS A NEW wave of optimism that the Wonga Park Village shops will be given a new lease of life.
The “For Lease” sign that has stood as a sentinel outside the derelict shopping strip for over a year was given the addition of an “Under New Ownership” sign in late February, and has been joined by some cyclone fencing around the perimeter of the centre.
On contacting the leasing agent, Lewis Waddell of Fitzroys Real Estate, it was confirmed that the site has been purchased by a developer who would like to remain anonymous at this time.
Mr Waddell told the Dairy that the new owner has submitted plans to redevelop and refurbish the site to “bring it back to life”.
The owner has plans for what, in his words, will be a “community revitalisation”, and is hoping to attract tenants for a variety of retail, medical and dining spaces.
“Depending on how the permit application goes the owner hopes [tenants will be able to move in] within the next three to six months,” said Mr Waddell.
Tenants were evicted from the shopping centre by the former owner three years ago.
Hairdresser, Lynn Munro received notice to vacate her Yarra Road salon just before Christmas of 2015.
“I received a letter on December 17, 2015 to say I had to vacate within four weeks,” she said.
Since then the shops in the precinct have remained empty, much to the frustration of Wonga Park locals.
“The owner was a local person, but she moved to Sydney and stopped renewing leases on all the shops, even the Post Office couldn’t continue to operate,” she said.
When the centre was put up for lease again last year there were hopes for activity at the site, but despite numerous enquiries from potential tenants, none of the shops were let.
“The shops were the heart and soul of Wonga Park, with everyone living on such big blocks it was a place for everyone to meet.
“When I was the last shop there, people would come in and say, ‘where can we get a coffee?’, but there was nowhere,” Ms Munro said.
Over the last three years, all attempts of contacting the now-former Sydney-based owner of the property have proven futile as Council, media and residents have had letters unanswered, phone calls cut off, and many questions left unanswered.
While the centre has been languishing unoccupied, the town has been resolute in maintaining their community spirit.
Wonga Park Farmers Market has been established in an attempt to reinvigorate the community, but this does not solve the village’s day-to-day needs, which, until the property is tenanted, are still unmet.
Angelo Kourambas, Director City Planning and Community at Manningham City Council said it was too early for Council to comment on the owner’s ideas for the site.
However, he said the Council welcomes the potential rejuvenation of the centre.
“Council is keen to see the Wonga Park Village Centre restored to a viable and vibrant local shopping and community precinct for the local community to enjoy,” he said.
Anyone interested in leasing space from the new owner can contact Lewis Waddell at Fitzroys Real Estate 0431 107 275.