THE decision by the Wodonga Council to moth-ball the closure of Hovell Street has sparked renewed interest from prospective tenants in the former Tooles site in High Street.
Developer Andrew Stern yesterday confirmed the first tenant, a national retailer, had been locked away this week and construction was on target to be completed by mid-December.
Mr Stern said the prospect of Hovell Street being closed had stalled discussions with potential tenants.
The council’s recent decision to defer the proposal for at least two years had sparked renewed interest in the redevelopment.
“We are very happy with the council’s decision not to proceed with the partial closure of Hovell Street,” he said.
“It has provided some real certainty for traders in the area.
“In particular, some of the potential tenants we have been talking to are happy the road closure is not proceeding.
“It certainly didn’t help when it was a chance and conversely as soon as the decision was made it re-activated discussions with several tenants.”
Mr Stern wouldn’t confirm the identity of the first tenant which would be open in the lead-up to Christmas.
“They are high-end retail,” he said.
Mr Stern and his wife Jenny are bankrolling the redevelopment of the former Tooles building which had stood for 74 years on the corner of High and Stanley streets.
Progress became more visible this week with the erection of large scale steel framework manufactured at the family-owned JC Butko Engineering.
The site has had a slight tweak from the original plan with an additional shop space being created.
Three shops will be located in Stanley Street and three, including the corner building, will face High Street.
“It gave us better tenancy configurations and gives someone else an opportunity to open a shop,” Mr Stern said.
The confirmed tenant, believed to be a clothing retailer, will occupy a shop fronting High Street.
A restaurant and coffee shop remained a possibility, but other uses are being considered.