All roads lead to Manns

Click or flick across for artists impressions of the proposed redevelopment.

THE multimillion-dollar Mann shopping centre is firmly back on Wodonga’s CBD agenda.

Mann Wodonga Properties yesterday announced it hoped to start construction midway through next year, with the intention of being finished by the end of 2015 — almost a decade after the project was first flagged.

The $60 million centre, which is still awaiting a permit from Wod­onga Council, has been scaled down from the $80 million plan first proposed more than three years ago.

The announcement came as the Victorian Deputy Premier Peter Ryan visited Wodonga to announce the state government would provide $2.1 million in road infrastructure surrounding the site, including the Elgin Boulevard realignment works beginning in January.

The 16,000 square metre Mann site — down from the 24,600 square metres first planned — will now hold 44 speciality shops, as opposed to 76, as well as a supermarket, discount department store and basement parking.

It’s anticipated 400 new jobs will be created once the centre is complete.

Director of Mann Wodonga Properties, Stuart Gilchrist, said the time was now right to proceed with the long-delayed project.

The group’s plans have been beset by problems, from the global financial crisis to stalled negotiations with key tenants. The former Highpoint furniture site has been vacant since 2009.

Mr Gilchrist conceded if things had gone to plan, the centre would have been built by now, but the delays might have been a Godsend.

“To be honest, if we had built it we would have been in a lot of trouble now,” he said.

“The GFC arrived and a number of stores we hoped to build and lease just would not have been realised ... the ability of franchisees to get funding was dramatically reduced.

“We have rejigged the plans and have a scheme we believe suits the current market.”

Mann’s project manager Chris Mills said the new shopping centre would help keep shoppers in Wodonga, instead of the city losing trade to Albury.

He could not comment on which retailers were likely to take up tenancies, but that they were in “very advanced negotiations”.

The shopping centre will be complemented by $4.29 million in infrastructure works by Wodonga Council.

This includes money for the reconstruction of Elgin Boulevard, Hovell Street and South Street to improve access to the Mann’s precinct.

Mr Ryan, who is also Minister for Regional Development, said it would “unlock this part of Wodonga”.

“I can’t overstate how important this is for Wodonga,” he said.

Wodonga mayor Rod Wangman said he was confident the community would celebrate the news: “Good things come to those who wait,” he said.

“The journey has taken some time ... but when all of these things do tie together, they are for the long-term future of Wodonga.”

Mr Ryan announced $150,000 for the city’s $225,000 growth strategy and $30,000 for the $48,000 economic development strategy.

A further $455,000 will also go to the Bonegilla Migrant Experience.

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