By SELBY STEWART
Local traders on Acland St have said last year’s upgrade has killed business and taken away the “soul” of the iconic St Kilda strip.
Acland Cellars manager Ben Muller, who has worked on the street for nine years, said the upgrade had turned the vibrant space into a dead zone.
“Basically, they have gambled and said that everyone gets to Acland St via public transport, and as a result, we have had probably a 20 per cent decrease in business, and we have been here for 33 years,” Mr Muller said.
“We were a destination store, so people would drive down, come in, and get what they needed from us because they knew we were a selective store – and we have lost that clientele.
“It is a dead zone, there is nothing there, there is no incentive to come to Acland St,” he said.
The City of Port Phillip, in partnership with Public Transport Victoria and Yarra Trams, delivered the three-month redevelopment, which saw a second tram line introduced and the removal of car access to the street, according to the City of Port Phillip’s website.
Despite the council suspending parking fees for 140 spaces during the construction of the tram stop, parking is no longer available on the Barkly St end of the strip and a total of 51 spaces have been removed.
Chakra owner Janet Rosenberg has worked in the boutique store on Acland St for 25 years, and said the lack of parking meant locals had been forced to do their shopping elsewhere.
“Not being able to just go around the corner and find a one hour spot to go to the bank, go to the supermarket, maybe go to your favourite coffee shop or pick up a present, deters you from coming here,” Ms Rosenberg said.
“We’ve lost all the locals.”
Port Phillip acting Mayor Katherine Copsey said the council had received largely positive feedback since the upgrade and that sufficient parking was available throughout the neighbouring area.
“Within a five-minute walk of the shopping strip there are more than 2400 on-street and off-street parking spaces available,” Ms Copsey said.
“The ample parking in the Acland precinct was shown on a map provided to traders and promoted at events,” she said.
Owner of St Kilda’s iconic Leroy Espresso Anastasia Manousikas, said the upgrade had improved the safety of patrons outside.
“There is more space and you don’t have cars speeding through all the time which is much safer and reassuring,” Ms Manousikas said.
“It has attracted a lot more family types and active cyclists.”
However, Ms Manousikas said the plaza was often dirty and was a hotspot for homeless people throughout the day.
Several traders had also expressed concern over the plaza’s lack of colour. Ms Rosenberg said the vibe of St Kilda had been changed completely.
“Turning a busy communal street that had soul, was vibrant and was happening, into a concrete jungle with a double tram track was never going to be good for business,” she said.
“The plaza has no soul, it is a concrete jungle … there is no colour, no feel.”