Booming business metered in CBD mall

LOOKING AT THE BIG PICTURE: Ben Porcheddu, owner of M & Michael's Footwear on Crown St.
LOOKING AT THE BIG PICTURE: Ben Porcheddu, owner of M & Michael's Footwear on Crown St.

Wollongong Councillor Greg Petty's proposal for free one-hour parking to lure shoppers into the city may win some popular support - but not every business in town would back it.

Independent retailer Ben Porcheddu, whose family has operated a business in Crown St for 50 years, said paid metered parking was the best thing that had ever happened to the CBD.

The owner of M & Michael's Footwear, located at the bottom of Crown St, remembers the days before the mall was created, and understands a simple equation: traffic equals business.

"Our business has improved since the meters came in," he said.

"My customers love it. People can now come in to the CBD knowing it's much more likely they will get a park, and the rangers are policing it."

The independent Cr Petty has suggested providing the first hour of parking free may attract shoppers to some areas. He will move for the council to conduct a thorough review of parking space utilisation rates, and how much revenue would be lost if certain areas were made one-hour-free.

But yesterday Mr Porcheddu said the loudest complaints about the meters were coming from the staff of CBD businesses, who were used to being able to park in the street all day while they worked.

"I'm going to stick my neck out and say it ... these are the loudest whingers of all," he said.

"They used to park their cars all day long, they would even park in loading zones.

"They were parking three cars out the front of their business and whining when they got a ticket."

Mr Porcheddu said he couldn't see how Cr Petty's proposed scheme of offering free one-hour parking would make much difference.

"People are whingeing over having to pay 50 cents or a dollar - I've told my customers I'll pay it for them if it's going to bring them into my shop."

He said he had noticed another trend over 50 years in business.

"Wollongong loves to complain - and people are always looking for someone else to blame. People always think short-term."

He said the councillors debating this issue needed to think about the business community and what it contributed to Wollongong.

"A lot of these guys [councillors] have never been in business. This is business, the money has to turn around.

"The first week they introduced the meters people were a bit rebellious and it was a little bit quiet. But I've never had one customer whine to me about it. They actually say it's so good they can find a park now."

Mr Porcheddu believed the biggest issue facing the CBD was the Mall, which he said should be reopened.

"I've grown up here. I was born here and my parents set up business in Port Kembla in 1956.

"We've been here in Crown St. since 1962. Before the mall there were buses and a lot more traffic coming through.

"Traffic means business, and money makes the world go round."