Lygon St, Bridge Rd, Chapel St: retail strips battle large vacancies

Lygon St, Carlton - for herald sun real estate

Lygon St, Carlton, has seen vacancy rates soar to 20 per cent, a new report shows.

Iconic Melbourne retail strips including Chapel St, South Yarra, and Bridge Rd, Richmond, are grappling with vacancy rates so high one in five shopfronts are empty.

One real estate expert has even flagged we could see fewer stores “dishing out pasta” in Carlton’s Lygon St as the pandemic bites

And there are another 13 village shopping hubs where one in 10 stores aren’t trading, according to the latest Walk the Strip report from commercial realtors Fitzroys.

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The report – which captured vacancy rates from 2019, 2020 and up to last week – is ringing an alarm bell for St Kilda’s once-vibrant Acland St, where the vacancy rate has more than doubled to 14.6 per cent since Covid-19 hit.

Fitzroys director David Bourke warned while many strips would rebound, others would need to reconsider their identity.

Bridge Rd, Richmond - for herald sun real estate

Large sections of Bridge Rd, Richmond, are seeing empty shop fronts – though some are believed to be earmarked for development.

“Lygon St might not have all of its future in red and white table cloths and dishing out pasta the way they have for the past 30 years,” Mr Bourke said.

“You hope that continues, but if you step back and think the big driver there is the University (of Melbourne). And with so many students working online or overseas, that’s having an impact.”

Despite gloomy figures for some strips, others are booming including Centre Rd, Bentleigh, where the vacancy rate has fallen for the past three years.

Church St, Brighton, is the city’s best performer with a 0.7 per cent vacancy rate recorded in the report.

Centre Rd, Bentleigh - for herald sun real estate

Centre Rd, Bentleigh, has seen its vacancy rate decline throughout the pandemic.

The report captured vacancy rates across 33 of the city’s most sought-after suburban retail strips.

City wide, it recorded a 2.6 per cent increase in vacancy rates, which Mr Bourke said wasn’t “as severe as some might have expected during Covid-19”, with a rise in food vendors helping to keep lights on in some shopfronts.

“There are providers looking to expand with noodle bars and pizza bars, who want to take advantage of the rise in Deliveroo and Uber Eats,” he said.

“They are becoming a bit Covid-proof.”

Chapel St, South Yarra - for herald sun real estate

While still above 18 per cent, the vacancy rate in Chapel St, South Yarra, has fallen.

He added while Melbourne’s CBD faced even greater challenges, the rise in working from home had reconnected people with their local shopping strip, which would help many of them rebound in the near future.

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