Monday, December 17, 2007

Can Erskineville survive a Woolworths supermarket?

Residents of Erskineville and surrounding suburbs are running a strong, effective, grass roots Internet based campaign in opposition to the proposed redevelopment of the "Hive' site on Erskineville Road (formerly the Mardi Gras HQ pictured below).

Details on the proposal are outlined below from the recent SMH article. I share the concerns of residents about increased traffic impacts and the potential negative impact upon the existing small shopping strip at Erskineville. I lived in Erskineville for six months in the mid 90's during a period when the shopping strip appeared to be teetering between survival and closing down with many empty shops and only short term businesses. Since then as the suburb has grown and the community identity strengthened (including the successful campaign backed by South Sydney Council to stop the closure and sale of Erskineville Public School) the shopping strip has emerged as a fine example of a diverse and sustainable urban hub as distinct from nearby larger areas and much valued by the local community and visitors alike. These are important broader points in considering the overall impact of this proposal.

It has been interesting to observe the competition between Woolworths and Coles to open more 'boutique' styled supermarkets from 900 to 2500 square metres in size across the inner city over recent years. Competition to infill the pockets where the mega supermarkets have less reach has been aggressive particularly around the Green Square developments but also Potts Point, Surry Hills and Oxford Street precincts.

Being a resident of Potts Point I am a fan of the recently opened Woolworths under the IKON building on Macleay Street. This smaller supermarket has zero parking with a 15 minute pick up zone out front for people who must use a car. Shopping trolleys are prohibited from being taken out of the supermarket. This approach along with a good range of produce and usually friendly staff generally works to make the supermarket very well patronised and popular with the locals. Rather than extinguish competition as was feared it appears to have help stimulate a shopping renewal in the general area with a new butcher, greengrocer and several up market deli's. Other businesses have opened to service the demand for improved shopping opportunities including cafes, florists, travel agencies and clothing stores some making a welcome come back to the area. A neighbouring convenience store did close down but was replaced by a bookshop and now a new popular deli. The competition has also stimulated the redevelopment of the tired Coles competitor under the famous 'Coke' sign. However it has not all been roses with some reports of delivery vehicle issues at the Woolworths and Council is monitoring the loading dock to make sure it complies with the approval. Having made these observations - Erskineville is a long way from Potts Point with a much lower urban density and higher car ownership and usage. So not quite comparing apples with apples.

To understand these issues and the impact of the Erskineville proposal on that community the applicant should provide Council with an independent economic impact study and detailed traffic study and plan. We have had this information provided by supermarket applicants in the past and most recently for the Green Square Town Centre where two reports confirmed the demand existed for several supermarkets in the area.
As most eCouncillor readers know Councillors are required to consider the full and independent planning report prepared by our qualified staff as well as all the submissions made by the public before making a final determination on a development proposal. I look forward to reviewing the officer's planning report in the New Year and the thorough planning committee process to come.

To find out more from the Erkineville campaign go to the Village Friends web site here.

Sydney Morning Herald

Residents off trolley over shop proposal

Jano Gibson Urban
Affairs ReporterDecember 15, 2007
A PLAN to build a two-storey supermarket in Erskineville has outraged residents who fear their narrow streets will be choked with traffic. Artro Management, on behalf of Harold R Finger & Co, the owner of the building on the corner of Gowrie Street and Erskineville Road, is seeking the City of Sydney's approval to excavate and partially demolish the vacant building. In its place it wants to erect a 2138-square-metre, two-level supermarket and specialty store, with a basement car park for 31 vehicles. The supermarket, a short distance from Erskineville and Newtown stations, would be open seven days a week. The development application says it will cater for people who tend to buy a small amount of groceries every few days, making it easier for people to carry groceries home without a car.
Standard shopping trolleys would not be available, customers instead using baskets and basket trolleys."The aim is to provide the customer with convenience and ease of shopping with a range that can be purchased over multiple trips during the week rather than one large purchase," the application reads.
The developer's insistence that the supermarket would be compatible with its surrounds appears to have fallen on deaf ears. Last week, about 200 people attended a meeting at a local church to voice their concerns.
"We are talking about a large supermarket: two storeys. That is not a corner store, by any stretch of the imagination," said Victoria Rati, a resident and member of the Erskineville community group Village Friends. She said extra traffic, including delivery trucks, would make parking problematic for residents and increase noise in the street. The group urged the council to organise an independent traffic and parking study."At the present, sometimes you have to park one to two blocks away from where you live and that's just going to add to the pressure," Ms Rati said.
The supermarket could also jeopardise smaller shops on Erskineville Road, she said."If just three shop owners were impacted this may be sufficient to destroy the fabric of the entire village."

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