Can the old town support a rising skyline?
By PETER CATON
QUESTIONS are being raised about the practicality of six-storey buildings in South Murwillumbah and four-%storey townhouses around Knox Park in the heart of the town.
Tweed Shire Council has released a draft plan which proposes the changes and also suggests three possible sites for any new supermarket in the CBD.
But while the new height limits have been welcomed by some, others have raised objections.
And some real estate agents have%also questioned whether the proposed supermarket sites will be large enough for a complex with associated speciality shops which Woolworths favours. Leading Murwillumbah real estate agent Chris Chrisostomos, manager of the investment division of Tweed Property Sales, said the plan would enable the council to reduce its infrastructure costs in the long term but would not become a reality until investors could see reasonable returns.
He predicts it will be at least 10 years before investors are willing to look at six-storey towers in South Murwillumbah.
And he said they would have to be restricted mainly to apartments because Murwillumbah would not have the population to support such large commercial developments.
"At the moment we don't have the demand for any investors to swoop into South Murwillumbah and whack up six storeys," he said.
"This is a long-term plan for where we can house people should the demand eventuate," he said.
However Mr Chrisostomos said it was possible a supermarket complex could be built in an area set aside for that purpose between the Regent Cinema and government offices including the NSW Firearms Registry in Nullum Street.
He said the area could accommodate a supermarket of equivalent size to the existing Coles store in the Sunnyside Mall shopping centre as well as 15%speciality stores.
But what was most needed was an injection of employees with disposable income, not the current flood of retirees on limited income who were looking at Murwillumbah as a place to live.
South Murwillumbah panel beater Geoff Smith has praised the move to reinvigorate the so-called "Prospero Street precinct" but says Prospero Street should also become a mall with small shops.
"The use-by date of buildings here are finished and they are a fire%hazard," he said.
"There are three good factors in the council plan: plenty of parking, we need light commercial rentable space for this town which we haven't got, and with residential on top, in a stepped manner, it would look really good.
"If it's done tastefully it's going to be advantageous for the town," Mr Smith said.
Conservationist and retired architect Paul Hopkins says moving from a three-storey height limit in South Murwillumbah to six is excessive. "Walk-up height should be the natural limit," he said. "I can't see how you can have six%storeys and still have heritage value. It's out of character with the general scale of Murwillumbah" The new draft plan for Murwillum- bah is still on display at council offices and on the council website, with public comment sought.
The council's planning director Noel Hodges said the "proposed changes will contribute to the growth and character of the Murwillumbah town centre and protect and enhance the%public areas for the benefit of all."