Traders breathe sigh of relief after disruptive works come to an end
Kensington traders have expressed relief as streetscape works – which caused major disruption to business, finally wrap up in Bellair St.
The City of Melbourne has upgraded the stormwater drainage and streetscape along the popular shopping and dining strip, with works starting on May 28, and finishing at the end of June.
But traders said it had led to disruption, inconvenience, and trading losses by as much as 50 per cent – just as they had begun to rebuild after two years of COVID lockdowns.
The council said public access to shops had been retained throughout the project with footpath works completed in sections to minimise disruption.
However, Tushar Bhatnagar, co-owner of The Premises café, was one of many traders glad to see the back of the works.
Mr Bhatnagar, who has recently undertaken renovations to expand his business, said he couldn’t set up his outdoor dining furniture while his front entrance also hindered throughout the construction period.
“We did lose 30 to 40 per cent of business when a lot of heavy work was going on,” he told North West City News.
“Customers didn’t have parking space, and no one wants to walk through a construction area.”
“We did try to reach the council a few times to see if they could compensate … but we were told it was not possible.”
“We were denied a couple of times, and they said, ‘we’re not asking you to close your businesses down, we just leave enough room so the customers can walk in and out of entrances’.”
Mr Bhatnagar said while he wasn’t against the project, which he acknowledged had made a “visual impact” in the street – he felt disappointed that small businesses had been forgotten about, and he questioned why the works weren’t undertaken during the 200 days of world record breaking lockdowns.
According to Mr Bhatnagar, he spoke to one of the engineers on-site who said the upgrade had “been planned many years ago and was getting pushed and pushed back”.
Another trader, who did not wish to be identified, said it was a “massive relief” the works had been completed.
“It definitely was disruptive and noisy. It was one of those things that had to get done. It wasn’t pleasant, but at least it’s done,” they said.
“We did the best we could because we can’t afford to close. We just came out of lockdown; we would’ve appreciated not having any disruption for a while.”
The council told North West City News in early July that work was expected to be completed soon on the final stage of the project to restore the historic mosaic artwork.
Twelve colourful circular mosaics, which are located in the pavement of Bellair St and represent the themes of local architecture and landmarks, have been carefully preserved and reinstated.
The artworks celebrate Kensington’s strong community identity, which was part of a public art and job skills project in 1996 and led by artists Helen Bodycomb and Paul Robinson.
Local mosaic artist Libby McKinnon, who was one of the tutors involved in the original project and has helped maintain the mosaics over the years, said, “It is great that the mosaic artworks are valued so much by the community”.
“The mosaic artworks can all individually be fully appreciated for their brilliant designs, wonderful execution of mosaic cutting techniques and illustrates how artists, engineers, tradespeople, local government, and others, worked together to transform the Belair St and Macaulay Rd shopping strip, giving it character and life.”
Caption: Tushar Bhatnagar, co-owner of The Premises café, is glad business has returned to normal.