Gateway Island looking for a crowd pleaser

EDITORIAL:A new lease of life awaits

THE former Gateway Island visitor information centre could finally have a new tenant — but crowd-pleasers only need apply.

The 455 square-metre building at the centre of the arts and cultural precinct has gone out to tender after standing vacant for more than two years.

Wodonga Council is seeking a tenant that will attract more visitors to the village.

The council’s acting manager for economic development, Sebastian Konjevic, said visitor traffic had been gradually increasing due to the council’s investment in the precinct and “the quality of tenants there”.

“Ideally we’re looking for something that’s going to be a destination in its own right and attract visitors ... and can complement the existing businesses,” he said.

“It doesn’t have to be tourism, our greatest criteria is its ability to attract people to the area.

“Hopefully there’ll be people interested not only from Albury-Wodonga, but other neighbouring regions.”

It’s a vision the existing tenants agree with.

Artist Robyn White said a business that could “gel everything together” was needed.

“Because it’s right out the front, it’s almost like an entrance to the whole thing,” she said.

“Maybe something that offers courses or training would be good, something where people can come along and try things.”

La Maison Cafe manager Wassim Saliba said although tourism was important, he would also like to see something that catered for locals.

“A permanent farmer’s market with local produce would be good, rather than waiting for it every fortnight,” he said.

The council is “open to anything”, Mr Konjevic said — be it a brewery, chocolate factory, ice-creamery, cafe, another gallery or museum, or a showcase for organic and regional produce.

Rent would also be negotiable, with applicants invited to state what they’d be willing to pay.

“Income isn’t the highest priority, it’s more about getting the right drawcard for the spot,” Mr Konjevic said.

The centre has remained an empty shell since it was scaled back in February 2012, when the council opened a tourist hub in Hovell Street.

The council advertised for a new tenant then, but did not find a suitable replacement.

A small office remained next door, but this closed just before Christmas.

Tenders close on April 30 through Landmark Harcourt Wodonga.

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