Ipswich Chamber of Commerce president Phillip Bell.
Ipswich Chamber of Commerce president Phillip Bell. Cordell Richardson

A 'wise' focus on diversity will rescue CBD from sad decline

LONG suffering CBD businesses have been handed a lifeline while construction is underway on a major part of the city centre's redevelopment.

As tradies moved onto site this week to start on civic plaza, library and Ipswich City Council administration building, businesses could see a glimpse of hope after year of false starts.

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Hutchinson Builders were selected as the preferred tenderer of the $140 million contract, with about 200 workers on-site at a time and about 300 expected at peak points in the project.

Council has launched a promotion in conjunction with about 20 CBD businesses to offer a 'tradies pack' which will give those who work on site discounts or reduced prices from a number of food and drink outlets.

Interim administrator Greg Chemello admitted the CBD had lost its "heart and soul" and it was important to reverse the decline.

Ipswich Chamber of Commerce CEO Phillip Bell said a similar scheme brought on board for the construction of the Orion shopping centre in Springfield had worked well.

"I think it is going to be a really interesting undertaking to see which businesses benefit most from the construction activity that's going on around here," Mr Bell said.

"I'm really pleased to have Hutchies in the city working and that level of economic activity that they bring is going to be positive for the city.

"I think acknowledging Greg Chemello's point that business is suffering, it's going to be interesting to see how that translates to the broader community."

Mr Bell said the start of construction work - a crane is expected on site within a month - could provide hope to small business owners under the pump.

"I think it's a long road," he said.

"I really admire businesses that are making brave decisions based upon the vision but I also recognise Greg Chemello has done a good job of celebrating only what's occurring now and not actually celebrating the vision that will be apparent in two years time.

"I think as always it's the business community that's continuing to show the courage and optimism about either remaining in the city or investing in the city."

Council is in discussions with dozens of potential tenants for the retail building it owns and Mr Bell said a focus on health, as well as retail, entertainment and food outlets, was a "wise decision".

"It's a good model in the fact that it compliments other commercial activity in the city," he said.

"I can already see the significant investment in health and allied health services locally is bringing commercial activity. But I think health by itself is not sufficient. One of the unique aspects of this CBD is its diversity... it's that diversity that I think is going to deliver prosperity for the city.

"It's a really positive outcome to be celebrating right now... rather than a vision just given to us previously."