Richmond agent calls for Bridge Rd retail fix
A Melbourne commercial agent says overpricing and local government red tape are continuing to hurt Richmond’s Bridge Rd retail strip.
TCI Property Consultants director Jack Teneketzis says that while some sections of the iconic shopping destination consistently perform well, others struggle under “prohibitive” local laws and fanciful rental prices.
In June a report from Savills revealed Bridge Rd had the highest vacancy rate of any of Melbourne’s 10 major suburban retail strips, with vacancy hitting 13.6%.
Vacancy rates: All the stats for Melbourne’s top 10 retail strips
“Some strips, such as Bridge Rd, have struggled in recent years but that has been more to do with tenancy mix and a lack of local government initiatives,” Savills’ Victorian research manager Monica Mondkar says in the report.
Teneketzis, whose agency is on Bridge Rd, echoed those sentiments, saying restrictions on shopfront renovations, as well as the introduction of tram “super stops”, were impacting retail trade.
“At the top end they’ve put all these tram super stops, which are impossible for retail,” he says.
“It’s an idea to have less stops, but the way they’ve done it where they’ve removed car parking, they’ve now got issues with (a lack of) on-street parking.”
“It doesn’t have to be as bad as it is now. It’s just prohibitive.”
The middle and lower sections of Bridge Rd, which are made up largely of restaurants, feature historically low vacancy, but it is at the top end, around Epworth Hospital and closer to Punt Rd, where shops remain a hard sell.
Teneketzis says heritage restrictions on shopfront upgrades make it difficult for retailers to showcase their wares.
“My major concern is the quality of the shopfronts. You’ve got ugly shopfronts that are restricted. I like heritage, first floor, keep it there, but ground floor just go frameless glass. That’s what retail is about. It’s about exposing retail onto the street,” he says.
But he also levelled some of the responsibility at agents who set unrealistic rental prices for shops along the strip.
“I think if the shop’s priced correctly they always lease,” he says.
“A lot of people aren’t proactive enough to price it there. They don’t want to have that hard discussion with an owner.”
Teneketzis predicts better times ahead for Bridge Rd, with apartment developments to drive growth and interest in the maligned upper section of the precinct.
“The top end will come good. There’s a lot of developments up there, and when the new developments come … they’ll bring in better quality surrounding and neighbouring tenants who want to be closer,” he says.
“All the apartments mean there’s more consumers and that will just improve the area. I think the top end’s got some growth coming.”
“It’s a devalued strip at the moment and I think that’s why people are looking to buy there, because they know there’s upside there.”