Grand plan for Mt Barker’s CBD

Local architect Geof Nairn’s bold $100m vision for the last undeveloped block of land in Mt Barker’s CBD has all elements many people believe the town is been lacking.
The grand plan is appealing on a number of levels – arts, tourism, hospitality and retail are all covered – but as the adage goes, money makes the world go round.
A town square of such depth and complexity will cost millions of dollars and there will need to be outstanding confidence in its future on an economic level, for it to succeed.
Considering only limited funds are likely to be derived from the State Government, only the deep pockets of developers and investors will bring it to life.
The Mt Barker Council has already tried to secure a portion of the vacant block but was unsuccessful in its attempt to loosen Woolworths’ grip over the prime piece of real estate.
As the land is now out to open tender, the council is still hopeful it can secure the site if it links with an interested developer.
If the land is sold to someone with a different concept, the opportunity for such a town square in the heart of Mt Barker will be lost forever.
Mr Nairn’s vision could be an important step in attracting community and, more importantly, corporate interest.
The resulting buzz and excitement is likely to stir up further ideas and possibilities.
Mt Barker, like many rapidly growing Australian towns, suffered something of an identity crisis when the main street no longer became the prime shopping strip and the economic focus shifted to the supermarkets.
A town without a focal point is just a group of houses.
Imagine being able to sit outdoors and read a book in Mt Barker’s CBD, or enjoy a lunch break in a vibrant town square filled with people and shopping opportunities.
In recent years, Mt Barker has seen many bold visions disappear into the ‘too hard and too expensive’ basket and it would be a shame for the this plan to follow suit.
There is no doubt this is a long-term vision but the concept is a promising starting point.
Although dreams and ideas can be powerful weapons, the first hurdle is for the council to secure the land.