NEARLY 50 shops are up for lease or sale on High Street in Wodonga with growing concern about the number of vacant buildings on the town’s main street.
There are 30 buildings up for rent or sale between the water tower and Elgin Boulevard.
There are five vacant sites between Elgin Boulevard and South Street and further vacancies are available at nearby Mann Central.
Some major tenants, including Coles and the Commonwealth Bank have moved to nearby sites, along with smaller businesses.
The biggest site, the 2300 square metre Coles building, is up for lease at a cost of about $400,000 a year, having moved last October after 44 years in the location.
Beazley’s Meats owner Jeff Beazley moved from High Street into Morrison Street in 2016.
He had worked on the main street for decades and said high rents could be having an impact, along with planned works.
The changes will remove the dip in the road, improve drainage, and include repaving and new street lights.
Three crossings will also be installed.
“I think a lot of people are scared about the roadworks that are going to happen soon,” Mr Beazley said.
“You’re not going to move into a shop where there are a heap of roadworks going on and people can’t get to it.
“I’ve worked in High Street since age 15, they’ve tried a lot of different things over the years.”
Mr Beazley believes Albury-Wodonga may have an oversupply of shops, leading to a struggle to fill the vacant buildings.
There are 42 sites for lease on High Street, not including at Mann Central, and five for sale with a top asking price of $2.8 million.
Coffee Mama owner Matt Sheridan said things were “a little tough at the moment” but had picked up since the last round of works.
He said there was no silver bullet that would address issues on the shopping strip.
“It’s a very good question,” Mr Sheridan said when asked what could attract tenants.
“I don't think there’s an answer for that.
“I think that’s something the business networks in Wodonga and Wodonga Council need to sit down and whiteboard.
“There’s no silver bullet for that one.”
Wodonga Retailers Group president Greg Haysom expects the vacant buildings to fill once the multi-million dollar road and streetscape works have been completed mid next year.
“This end is just about full,” he said of the redeveloped area.
“That will happen again at the other end.
“I’m pretty excited about what Wodonga will have once it’s all finished.”
There are fewer vacant buildings on Dean Street but a much higher number of properties.
Mr Haysom said the High Street streetscape looked nice, but some of the building facades could do with some renovation.
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“We need to tidy up some of the shops,” he said.
“It’s not necessarily inside the shops, but above the verandah level.”
While people had suggested to Mr Haysom the city was “dying”, he said it would be a different story once the works were finished.
“It definitely isn’t dying,” he said.
“We’ve got so much new stuff happening.
“It’s going to be amazing … it just takes time.”
Wodonga Ratepayers Association president Ian Deegan said creating apartments could be a solution to filling key buildings.
Council business engagement facilitator Ryan Hastie said there were several businesses due to open on High Street in coming weeks.
“It's actually a very positive time for the CBD in our opinion,” he said.
"There are a lot of businesses about to come onto the market.”
Mr Hastie said a major marketing campaign would be undertaken during the redevelopment.
The council is also matching improvement works to shopfronts dollar-for-dollar, up to $3000.
Economic development and tourism manager Adam Wiseman said the works would be a challenge for some business, but that the council would have extensive supports in place during the project.
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