Town centre win

After more than a decade of failed plans and speculation, there is now real hope the last undeveloped city block in Mt Barker’s town centre will be developed.
The land has been an eyesore and a frustration for locals, who have for years been hoping it would be transformed into something with a public benefit.
Now those hopes look set to become a reality.
The partnership between the Mt Barker Council and developer Burke Urban delivers a balance between the community’s desire for a town square and the private sector’s desire to create a commercial outcome.
Without each other, neither side would have had the money to buy the site, which was estimated to be worth $10m.
With both the council and Burke Urban committed to working together, the community looks set to gain from an integrated development across the entire site.
What that will look like is yet to be decided.
Burke Urban has already flagged the possibility of a mix of retail, offices and medium density housing.
But it is open to ideas.
So too is the council, which has proposed a town square on at least part of the land it has bought fronting Morphett Street.
Both parties have told The Courier they are keen to work with the community, prospective tenants and developers to create a masterplan for the entire site.
That is likely to deliver a far better outcome than if the land had been sold off for piecemeal development.
However, it also means the community will need to be open-minded about the future of the site.
It is unrealistic to expect that the majority of the block will be given over to community uses.
As a developer, Burke Urban will expect a return on its investment.
However, Burke Urban is also a company with strong and long ties to Mt Barker.
Its managing director, Kym Burke, told The Courier yesterday he views the development of the site as a “legacy project”.
After years of developers trying and failing to make their own stamp on the block – from a shopping centre to a childcare centre and a hardware store – it is a win for the community that its voice may now help shape the future of such a prominent site.