Collie looks to alternative leasing options to solve retail problem

Stuart McGuckinSouth Western Times

A new initiative in Collie designed to “energise” the town has been likened to a match-making service by shire president Sarah Stanley.

Project Occupancy will establish flexible tenancy models between interested property owners and tenants with fledgling businesses.

Cr Stanley said the initiative was based on the success of the Renew Newcastle Project over 10 years.

“We’d been looking around at all sorts of community-centred initiatives while aiming to revitalise the town centre,” she said.

“It’s a problem that is common across the world as retail and people’s habits have changed.

“The Newcastle model did some great things in a community that — while larger — has a similar industrial base and turned things around from a much worse base.”

An economic evaluation referenced in a statement by Collie Shire Council staff indicated the Newcastle project had a benefit-to-cost ratio in excess of 14 to one.

The evaluation indicated the project lead to increases in commercial lease payments and employment as well as a reduction in criminal activity.

Cr Stanley said in order for the project to get off the ground, owners of empty spaces and those with new businesses would need to show they were interested.

“The first challenge is attracting those people — that’s why we want to promote the benefits,” she said.

“It’s then a matter of assessing whether those offering up properties are suitable for the tenants wanting to move into those space.

“We talked about this at one of our business connection sessions and there was some interested owners at that point; there has also been interest in taking tenancies.”

The Newcastle project utilised 30-day rolling tenancy agreements, but Cr Stanley said more secure agreements, which had the potential to transition into tradition commercial agreement, could be adopted instead.

“One of our business advisers suggested a model that look at percentages of turnover,” she said.

“It could start by just covering costs for the landowner and ramp up as the business increased its turnover to the point where it reaches a commercial rate.”

Interested parties should contact Shire planner Robert Quinn for more information.

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