You’ve driven past it hundreds of times. You’ve shaken your head, perhaps ironically comparing land development in central Mount Barker with the burgeoning growth around its edges. How is it that a well established, growing community like ours can have such a woefully under-used space, and such an eyesore at that? Yes, no prizes for identifying the estimated ten million dollars worth of weeds and dirt trapped inside cyclone wire between Druids Avenue and Morphett Street.
It’s no secret that the land is owned by the nation’s largest supermarket chain, whose plans to expand there have been vetoed twice by local Council. Before you rail against interventionist local bigwigs, ask yourself: do we really need yet another aircraft-hangar size budget retail temple that sends truckloads of local money east into the coffers of Sydneysider suits? I think not. In the past couple of years a group of locals has been articulating a far more compelling case for that land.
The Mount Barker and District Residents’ Association has been urging Council to acquire the whole site. Mount Barker is a century old community and yet it has no clear focal point, no obvious central meeting place. Mount Barker Central shopping centre is the de facto town centre, primarily because of its food and retail concentration. Just down Morphett Street there is more of the same. But in the middle is a wasteland where instead there might be intelligently planned, landscaped, multi-purpose, community-friendly space. The retail giant, land lying fallow, now has half an ear cocked towards any realistic proposal.
Council, backed by local community and business, should make a concerted drive for the land. It’s bold and would be history-making. It wouldn’t be easy to coordinate such an ambitious plan, but think of the pay-off. Imagine Druids Avenue, Stephen, Morphett and Hutchinson Streets ringed with attractively designed modern functional buildings housing rent-paying businesses, the new Mount Barker Central, with parking inside and landscaped space: lawns, gardens, playground, trees, a fountain, maybe a statue of Captain Collet Barker and the covered community-use area, next to an amphitheatre for outdoor performances. It makes sense.
Imagine the Adelaide Hills Farmers Market utilising that covered community-use space every Saturday in a Town Centre between the two existing shopping centres.