Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Hive Revisited

Back in May, I posted about the controversy surrounding the proposed redevelopment of the 'Hive' site (confusingly there's now a Hive Bar in Erskineville, but that's another story) as a supermarket. In a nutshell, the original proposal for a large supermarket was rejected for size reasons after a well-coordinated campaign from the Friends of Erskineville Village; only for the owner to come back with another proposal for a 'grocery store' (less than half the size) on the same site.

The Friends relaunched their campaign; but feelings didn't seem to be as strong this time round, and while no-one is pretending this is the best use of the site, there are plenty who feel that it's not the disaster the friends are claiming.

Now, the council Development Assessment Sub-Committee have prepared their report on the application which goes to Council next Monday. They have recommended approval of the application, subject to the following conditions:
• Restricting the maximum length of vehicles servicing the site to 8.8m;
• Restricting hours of operation to: 7.00am to 10.00pm, Monday to Saturday and 8.00am to 10.00pm on Sunday
• Implementing traffic works and restrictions;
• Prohibiting the use of trolleys; and
• Compliance with the acoustic report.
The full report can be found here (item 6) - I'll draw your attention to the justification (on page 51)
(a) the development will introduce much needed competition, a wider range of goods and lower prices for customers;
(b) residents would like to be able to walk to a shop of this size on a daily basis, rather than drive to another suburb; and
(c) the development will attract employment for locals.
(d) The re-use of the building has environmental benefits and will conserve its current appearance. It is a significant improvement to the previously approved mixed-used development.
(e) Traffic is an acceptable part of living in the inner-city.
(f) The building is currently an eyesore and needs to be refurbished. Investment in this part of Erskineville will improve the amenity of the village.
(g) The majority of residents support the application and are not being heard due to the minority of vocal objectors.
Point g), I imagine, will be particularly galling to FOE, but is consistent with what I have seen. Broadly, there were two main themes to the objections; the additional traffic that a supermarket on the site would generate, and the impact it would have on existing Village businesses.

There's no question that the traffic on that part of Erskineville road is shocking; and any development or use of the Hive would make it worse. The question the council has to wrestle with is the veracity of the claims in the impact statement that the majority of clientele would arrive on foot. Frankly you'd be mad to drive there (I'm not sure how many drive to Frankies on King Street or the Foodworks today) but I'm no traffic engineer. I used to commute via Erskineville Road until I discovered it was faster (not too mention better for you) to cycle during peak periods.

The second objection has drawn quite a response from readers of this blog and followers of the Mayor on Twitter - but not the one you might have expected. The feeling of the majority is that existing retail in the village takes its clientele for granted and could do with a bit of competition.

After keeping my opinion to myself in the first post; I finally added this today:
In my ideal world the Hive would be put to a more imaginative use than a grocery store / supermarket - but of course this is not an ideal world; and someone has bought the building expecting to make a commercial return on it.

The current proposal is way better than the previous one in size and scope. My biggest objection to the current proposal is that the shop will be run by Woolworth's - presumably under their new Thomas Dux brand. As Kelly pointed out above, they don't have a great track record in the way they treat local businesses - it's a crying shame the new Hive owner couldn't find a local to open up a boutique grocers there instead.

Unfortunately Council can't reject the proposal on those grounds - we're really in the hands of the ACCC to protect us from the grocery duopoly - a job they are not doing very well at the moment IMO.

One positive is that finally the Hive will no longer be derelict; now to fix some of the other buildings on Erskineville Road.
As always, interested in comments and feedback.


  1. Fifty bucks says the new shop will open before the Imperial does.

  2. I agree with the Mayor. This isn't the worst outcome - on a scale of continued total dereliction -> massive overdevelopment, this probably sits in the middle.

    It will add variety and convenience to the area and as many FOE sorts have pointed out, there are plenty of other places to shop if you don't want to support Woolies/whatever else goes in there. I'll still be going to the Erko Deli over Woolies or Thomas Dux, but as to the balance of the shops in the Village, hopefully its the impetus to start getting things right.

  3. I think you have misquoted the report - the justification you have quoted is actually a summary of the submissions the council received in favour of the development (on my reading of it). More interesting was the response to the FOE's submissions against just after that part.

    I hadn't paid much attention to the picture of the proposed development until now (page 17 of the report). It looks pretty good actually - it's more a refurbishment than a development. Cannot see any real basis for complaint, other than being FOE upset that it's a commercial grocery store and not a collectivist art gallery and boutique coffee house serving free lattes and vegan beer (which really was all of our preference... oh well)