THE former Queanbeyan Business Council has a new name, a number of new faces and a bold new mission, to save the Queanbeyan CBD.
Now called the Queanbeyan Business Chamber, the revitalised business lobby group has signed up four senior local business people as vice presidents.
Former councillor and Dimitries Jewellers manager director Steve Stavreas has accepted the new position of vice president-retail, local conveyancer Rachel Bevan is now vice president-Professional services, Skyview Windows owner Neil Thompson is vice president-Industrial and local accountant, builder and hotelier Steve Bartlett is vice president-Hospitality and Tourism.
President Jamie Cregan said the Business Chamber had to refresh and replenish its skill base to help counter a number of recent business closures and attract shoppers back into the city.
"We've got businesses struggling and failing across the CBD. We've got a community that is increasingly shopping elsewhere, and we've got to attract our locals back to the CBD before we can even contemplate getting people from across the border," Mr Cregan said.
The Chamber is launching an ambitious push this year to come up with a design for a comprehensive overhaul of the CBD, and will seek to reach a broad city vision shared by both professional civic planners and the wider Queanbeyan community.
Mr Cregan said the Chamber hoped to "fill in the detail of the (Queabeyan Council CBD) master plan," which he said was currently too general to allow rapid, sweeping change.
"Traditionally, Council has driven the change, and we think that we can get a broader range of ideas where the community is driving the change, and the results that we get will be ones that the community is seeking," Mr Cregan said.
"There needs to be an alternative point of view rather than just Council staff. And that's not a criticism of Council staff- they're working within the confines that they have. But this is about a much broader ideas set.
"What we're trying to do with this project is for the community to take ownership of the CBD, and for the community to be the one driving the change," he said.
The Chamber is now building a brief of action to be based on a mix of professional planning strategies commissioned from independent contractors and community suggestions.
Mr Stavreas said he joined the Chamber because he felt it could achieve rapid change in the CBD, stemming the flow of local shoppers to better designed and presented retail centres across the border.
He said if the change didn't come soon, the Queanbeyan CBD would become merely a "convenience centre with a very bad ambience."
"First of all you've got to look at the competition to us," Mr Stavreas said.
"You've got the Airport commercial area, you've got Googong and a number of other smaller areas.
"Instead of focussing the attention on a major civic centre, it will deteriorate to becoming a convenience centre with a very bad ambience, because you'll have empty buildings- and no matter what you do to them or how much you paint them, they're going to be empty-and people will not feel comfortable or safe, and they will congregate towards the centres in Canberra.
"There will be tremendous leakage if we don't act, which in turn will have an impact on the economy, on employment, on Council rates and income generation, land values and so on," he said.
The Business Chamber met with Queanbeyan Mayor Tim Overall yesterday to discuss their CBD proposal.