Businesses slam mayor’s bid to reopen Alice Springs’ Todd Mall to traffic

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Alice Springs businesses have slammed the mayor’s attempt to reopen the city’s Todd Mall to traffic, saying it “won’t make a difference” in revitalizing the space.

Mayor Matt Paterson suggested introducing a one-way street and two-way bike lanes at the south end of the mall, along with on-street parking.

He said $20 million in federal funding, already committed to CBD revitalization, could be used to make the changes.

“My point is if the Todd Mall is the heart of Alice Springs, well, we’re heartbroken right now,” he said.

“We have to give it a boost to give it some life.”

Mr Paterson says community members are concerned about the condition of the mall.(ABC Alice Springs: Samantha Jonscher )

The southern end of the mall hosts a range of events throughout the year, including market days and, recently, the Desert Song Festival shows.

“But there are still 360 days where we don’t have a night market or a Sunday morning market,” Mr Paterson said.

But he stressed that the proposal was “just a concept”.

“It’s something that was brought to me by a lot of the community,” he said.

Vibrational Yoga Live in the Todd Mall
The Todd Mall often hosts events including markets and festival performances.(ABC Alice Springs)

Companies critical of change

Many Todd Mall business owners are skeptical of the suggested changes.

“I don’t think it would make a difference,” said Ange Vincent, owner of Leaping Lizards Gallery.

“What that would do is disrupt the social life of the mall, i.e. the markets and things like that, which are good when they happen.

“Look at the other end of the mall where the cars are, it’s just as dead.”

She said introducing traffic would not solve the lingering problem of anti-social behavior in the mall.

“I think if this problem went away, you would find that the mall would go back to how it was before it was such a big problem,” she said.

Todd Mall CCTV
It is hoped that the introduction of traffic will discourage anti-social behavior.(ABC Alice Springs: Emma Haskin)

Calls for more outdoor dining

Steve Brouwer owns the block at the north end of the mall, which opened to two-way traffic in 2013.

“It hasn’t really made a big difference at that end of the mall, other than, you know, we have a few cars going through,” he said.

“I just think we need to encourage more space alfresco dining activation, really.”

He said the mall had been “deteriorating” for years, with a mass exodus of banks, pharmacies and doctors’ surgeries.

“We really have to do something to try to encourage people to come back there,” he said.

A brick mall colored using chalk in rainbow colors with people walking on the mall.
The Todd Mall is considered the heart of Alice Springs.(ABC Alice Springs: Katrina Beavan)

Street trucks and foot traffic

Mr Brouwer suggested introducing more food trucks to the space, a call backed by Alice Springs architect Sue Dugdale.

“I actually think it would be nice to allow non-motorized vehicles into the mall, so skateboards and bicycles,” she said.

Ms Dugdale said opening the mall to traffic would be “a disgrace”.

“If it was open, I think you would lose a space where people can kind of walk around the city,” she said.

“It provides vehicle safety, it provides more shade and connection to people and activities.”

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