River natural link to Maitland Mall

CONNECTING with natural assets such as the Hunter River at Maitland is crucial  to attracting investors according to Hunter Business Chamber chief executive Kristen Keegan.

Yesterday, Ms Keegan applauded  Maitland City Council’s plan  to open up the city centre’s ailing mall  to the  river.

The council voted on Tuesday night  to proceed with detailed designs  for a redevelopment that could cost  more than $15million. Work would be    contingent  on available and continued finance.

Ms Keegan said that though  investment had to come from a variety of sources, the role of government       was to create the right environment for private money.

Small bars and restaurants have already moved in to Maitland’s city centre. Restaurateurs Megan and Mark Garnham’s The Orange Tree opens on to the Hunter River. The river views were  why many people patronised the tapas bar, Mrs Garnham said.

‘‘The plan is great [but the council is]  moving too slow,’’ Mrs Garnham said. ‘‘You need a collection of non-shopping centre, village-type businesses.’’

Maitland Business Chamber president Steve Thomson said he believed the council’s plan would encourage investment.

But not everyone is convinced. Leatherworker Bob Dennerley was concerned the  plans were too expensive, too modern and did not include his favourite mall item, the heritage-style lamps installed about 30 years ago.

Michael Johnston’s shoe store has ridden out economic booms and busts in High Street since 1885.

‘‘Is it [the redevelopment plan] cost effective? I’m not convinced.’’ 

Parking, shade and paving should come first, he said.

DIVIDED OPINION:  Megan Garnham  Picture: Peter Stoop

DIVIDED OPINION: Megan Garnham Picture: Peter Stoop