The spreading reach of the internet and continued decline of retail will lead to a massive transformation of the city’s CBD over coming decades, a leading Wagga town planner has predicted.
The city’s business chamber has been urging bricks-and-mortar businesses to confront internet disruption in the wake of several closures.
But MJM Consulting Engineers town planner Stephanie Anderson said she believed the bloodletting was not yet over - and shoppers should prepare themselves for “the main street of the future”.
“Everybody knows the nature of retail is changing. More and more retailers are closing and everyone is up in arms about it – and it is sad – but things are changing all the time,” she said.
“So I think we’re about to see the main street of the future. And that is going to be as a hub for restaurants and cafes.”
Wagga Business Chamber president Tim Rose conceded retail on Fitzmaurice Street could fall to the internet - but was optimistic about the future of Baylis Street.
“We can see that Fitzmaurice Street is where the restaurant hubs will be, and that’s why we’ve been pushing for long-term parking,” he said.
“Internet has turned retail on its head - but I think there will always be a space for retail and it will be as that impulse buy and as an experience."
WBC last year proposed the establishment of a pedestrian mall to revitalise the city centre.
“I think that’s something that still has merit,” Mr Rose said.
“We’ve seen it succeed elsewhere and it might work here. Shoppers would be given that experience that the internet cannot always provide.”
The prediction comes as an office construction surges ahead on Morgan Street.
The developer, Damasa, revealed earlier this week there was scope for four more A-grade office buildings.
It has the potential to draw office workers out of Fitzmaurice and Baylis streets, where buildings are ageing and undesirable to public servants.
Ms Anderson said Wagga would grapple with availability of A-grade office in the near future.
“Wagga definitely has an issue with high-quality office space, which is why you see professional offices in the city because they have nowhere to go,” she said.
“Those buildings are not necessarily accessible to clients.”
She said a new business park-style development would free up space on the main street.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.