Examiner Newspapers caught up with a number of business owners and managers from the Jull Street Mall precinct this week to hear about their day-to-day experiences in the Armadale CBD.
We also asked our two local members of parliament for their views about what can be done moving forward.
The owners of Dome Armadale have seen many businesses come and go within the Jull Street Mall precinct since October 2011.
Graeme Hill remembers the mall as a bustling city centre as opposed to what it is today, an array of empty shop fronts bearing ‘for lease’ signs.
Mr Hill said he attributes this to two things – no CBD parking and a lack of incentive or reason to invest in the mall.
“You used to be able to walk down beside the old Gelare shop and only have to walk 10 metres along the mall before you were at Dome,” he said.
“Now you have to park under one of the shopping centres and walk a long way through them to get to the mall.”
Mr Hill believes a co-existing mall where pedestrians and cars have a shared zone is the solution to bringing much-needed life back into what he now describes as a “very dark and lonely place”.
“We need to be able to take back the control of our CBD and make it the place it has so much potential to be,” he said.
“We have a magnificent location at the foot of the hills with a lot of natural beauty.
“The council have done a fantastic job in beautifying our parks but let’s take the next step and help facilitate the CBD to be a destination.
“Can you imagine if you had your choice of cafes and restaurants to choose from all in one strip, with the movies and shopping centres on either side?”
Acacia Hill Childcare
A local childcare manager admits consistent anti-social behaviour including swearing, physical altercations, damage to property and drug use within the Jull Street Mall is turning away business as parents and carers are choosing not to enrol their children at Acacia Hill Childcare.
Despite opening in March 2018, operations manager Patricia Antoine said people still say that they didn’t know the company was there, which she believes is due to lack of foot traffic through the mall.
“The layout of our centre has worked well in the fact that we have been able to prevent what is happening within the mall from impacting the children at the service,” she said.
“However, the daily issues we experience in the mall do impact our business significantly.
“We have had potential enrolling clients decide not to enrol with us due to what they have experienced when coming to the service and we are also frequently asked how we manage the crime within the mall.”
Mrs Antoine said she has previously noticed a decrease in anti-social behaviour when police are visibly present in the mall but she realises this is not always possible.
“We have direct access to our centre via a laneway next to us, which we have installed a camera monitoring system,” she said.
“Our staff seldom walk through the mall due to the safety concerns and will use the laneway to gain access to the shopping centre.”
F45 Training Armadale
Slumps in memberships and staff who don’t feel safe working on their own due to witnessing regular assaults, vandalism and anti-social behaviour, are just some of the things staff and management at F45 Training Armadale have experienced in their two years in the Jull Street Mall precinct.
Owner Ben Luckens opened the gym in February 2018 and admits business started well with about 120 members, however numbers have since slumped to about 70 members.
Mr Luckens said many of his members and staff have seen assaults, public urination and public drinking and spotted used syringes tossed out in the mall.
“I feel that no one should ever feel unsafe walking to go to a workout or to the shops, but that’s what’s happening here,” he said.
“I feel okay myself and I think my manager, Matt feels like we can handle any situation, but you never know.
“My female staff definitely don’t feel safe and it has come to a point where they don’t want to work on their own, especially one of my pregnant team members.”
Mr Luckens, who also owns F45 Training in Byford said something needs to be done now, before there is no more businesses operating in Jull Street.
“I’d like members of the council to come take a walk at Jull Street at 6pm on a Thursday or 7am on a Friday so they see how bad it really is and stop turning a blind eye to it,” he said.
“I bet if one of their family members were involved in an assault down there they’d be jumping up and down trying to make it a better place.”
OPINION: Member for Armadale Tony Buti
Jull Street should be the jewel in the crown of the Armadale CBD.
Unfortunately, it’s not, despite heavy investment by the City of Armadale to beautify the area.
The lovely trees and benches have not yielded marked increases in pedestrians and shoppers.
I have long been in favour of a mall free of vehicle traffic.
However, it has not been good for business – the number of premises that have closed their doors attests to this and the CBD commercial hub is dying before our eyes.
The reality is that a pedestrian-only mall requires considerable foot traffic to support a vibrant and sustainable commercial precinct.
Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is commonly referred to as the definition of insanity.
That is why I now support the re-opening of the Jull Street Mall to slow one-way moving traffic and bringing people back to Jull Street.
OPINION: Member for Darling Range and Shadow Minister for Small Business Alyssa Hayden
Jull Street is the heart of Armadale’s shopping district but it’s failing to live up to its potential due to ongoing criminal and anti-social behaviour.
The feedback I have received from Jull Street business owners in my capacity as Shadow Minister for Small Business is that regular fighting, drug use, assaults, theft and property damage is driving customers away and killing the mall.
There has been a 37 per cent spike in retail crime across Western Australia and it has forced a number of businesses to close statewide, but Jull Street in Armadale has been hit particularly hard.
Nearly half the shops in the Jull Street Mall are empty and many of the remaining business owners are considering whether or not to renew their leases.
To effectively tackle this problem across the board the McGowan government should invest more into our hard-working Police, who are doing all they can to prevent and investigate retail crime.
Local governments also play an important role in deterring crime through town planning.
One of the issues identified by Jull Street businesses is that because it’s only open to foot traffic, the street allows people to loiter for an extended period of time and engage in anti-social behaviour.
Reconnecting Jull Street and opening it up to slow-moving car traffic in a shared space would prevent loitering and provide passive surveillance without compromising the walkability of the mall.
I have written to the City of Armadale in support of this proposal and I hope a solution is found soon.
Small business is the largest employer in WA, providing nearly half the private sector jobs in the state.
It is vital that we make every effort to support them.