IT HAS BEEN a long road for Manningham Council at Macedon Square following opposition from local traders around the proposed Streetscape Upgrade.
Following the initial release of concept designs in August 2020, the majority of traders in the Macedon Square precinct were opposed to Council’s concept designs.
An alternative “Option C” was put forward via petition to Council by Macedon Square Traders Association (MSTA), with current Association President and owner of Egons Bakery, Gary Cyganek, presenting as the spokesperson for the disgruntled traders.
At the September 2021 Ordinary Council meeting, councillors voted to pass that a “modified Option B” be taken forward, in line with the presented Officers’ Report.
With no acknowledgement of the petitioned Option C as having any influence on the, then, final decision, and analysis of the Officers’ Report indicating that of the 192 responses to the Macedon Square Streetscape Upgrade received, only 62 were in direct response to whether or not Option A or B was the preferred option, traders petitioning for Option C felt snubbed and have since expressed a lack of confidence in both Manningham Council as an organisation and Ward councillors Dierdre Diamante and Cr Stephen Mayne.
As we go to print, Manningham Council has arranged a set of community consultation meetings on the subject of Macedon Square, with the first meeting set for September 14 at the Manningham Uniting Church.
The M&N Bulletin understands that the first meeting is designed to address the breakdown in communication that has occurred and to re-establish trust before consultation continues on how to use the allotted $3.5 million to “upgrade” the shopping centre.
M&N Bulletin recently spoke with business owners at Macedon Square about the messy situation that has developed.
Macedon Square is a vibrant shopping centre; despite being sandwiched between an ALDI and a Woolworths Supermarket, the strip has retained many traditional local shops, such as a bakery, butchers, and green grocers.
The focus of the traders recently has been around the narrowing of Macedon Road to accommodate the additional car parking spaces needed to offset the removal of parking and the proposed installation of a park on one side of The Mall.
Mr Cyganek and Monika Simonetti are business owners in Macedon Square and represent the traders opposing the plans.
Ms Simonetti, whose shop is opposite where extra parking spaces would be created and, ultimately, the roadway narrowed, described the community of Macedon Square.
“There are a lot of shops here that want to be here forever; they are not just thinking about it as a transition, and they do care about the local community and how good we can do for them as well.
“You are always trying to improve and ensure the shoppers can be happy in the environment.”
She recounted numerous incidents and near-misses with cars trying to negotiate the car park at dusk or during busy periods.
She also said that the trial sitting area set up during the Coronavirus lockdowns was not well utilised and that the concept runs contrary to the current behaviour of the shopping centre visitors.
“[In summer] it was too hot, and in winter it would be way too cold.
“We’ve been here a long time.
“People just want to come in, do their shopping, and leave again.”
Mr Cyganek added that trying to make Macedon Square a “destination” place within Manningham — such as Warrandyte or Templestowe Village — runs against the nature of the shopping centre.
“People are never going to come to this place as a destination because it doesn’t have the architecture for it.
“It’s really a boring strip shopping centre, which needs to be functional.
“Get their goods, go to the post office, go to the newsagent, go to the chemist, get their stuff and then go back home.”
In reaction to Manningham Council’s inaction, Mr Cyganek and several other traders erected signage on their shops illustrating their grievance with Council.
Still, these signs — some of which have been described as confronting — are only one aspect of the situation.
The protest about the road narrowing and the re-shuffling of the car parks is easy to focus on, but to take the conversation forward, the Bulletin asked Mr Cyganek and Ms Simonetti what Council can do to update the centre and keep the traders happy.
“Pretty much everything except the roads and the park,” said Ms Simonetti.
Mr Cyganek added a general safety upgrade of the centre was desired, including resurfaced footpaths, better bollards to separate the pedestrians and shopfronts from the cars, a reassessment of the drainage, and the trees in the centre to combat slippery leaves and bird droppings, stating many of the issues they are facing now are a result of what occurred during a centre upgrade in 1997.
While Mr Cyganek has support from many business owners, some business owners find his methods — the use of signage on shopfronts around the centre — provocative.
Kris Rowe, Proprietor of Helloworld Travel, spoke to us about her discomfort around Mr Cyganek’s use of large, confronting signs.
“He’s putting up ridiculous, intimidating signs — I don’t think that these signs are appropriate for a shopping centre.”
Ms Rowe told the Bulletin that there are safety and congestion issues within the shopping centre.
“Cars have been crashing into buildings here for years.
“The pathways and everything in this centre is incredibly dangerous.
“The [traffic] flow is terrible, they get caught up in the lights, and they will try and duck around [the car park] the wrong way, illegally, to get out.
“The pathways are falling to pieces, are dangerous for elderly people — this centre needs upgrading badly.
“We are happy to go back and plan, but the way it is now is not good, is not safe, and it is not practical.”
Despite their clash, both Mr Cyganek and Ms Rowe both express concern around business and visitor safety in the centre and that an upgrade is needed, but the needs of the shops in the centre vary greatly — while the bakers and fruit and veg shop will be looking at hundreds of transactions per day, other businesses like the barbers and travel agents may only need a dozen to have a good day.
The challenge for Council is to develop a design that meets the safety concerns without unfairly disadvantaging traders.
M&N Bulletin asked Manningham Council for an update on Macedon Square; Acting Director — City Planning and Community, Lee Robson, provided this statement.
“Manningham Council has received a significant amount of feedback about the concept plan for the Macedon Square.
We have clearly heard that there are concerns about issues such as traffic congestion, green space, footpath widths and the car parking layout.
There has been no further work on the design as it was recognised that we need to get more clarity on the needs of traders, community and Council before we proceed.
Even though Council has engaged with many people over many years in relation to this important amenity and safety upgrade, we have listened and recognise that there is benefit in more engagement on the current plan.
To make sure we provide a fair and transparent process for feedback, we have engaged an external third party to facilitate a series of meetings with traders and the community.
Our goal is to ensure that the traders and community have a say in the upgrade and, that we can collectively find a way to improve the safety and amenity of the area.
Council is open to revisiting elements of the concept plan to ensure it achieves a balanced outcome for all Macedon Square users.”
Anyone interested in attending is encouraged to register at macedon-square-feedback.eventbrite.com.au or by phoning 9840 9416.