Derelict shopfronts and boarded-up shop windows are a blight on the CBD, according to a retailer and a city councillor.
Businesswoman Christy Rock has noticed at least six empty shopfronts in Marine Tce and says it is bad for other retailers trying to ply their trade.
“We cannot have these businesses sitting dormant,” she said.
“It’s not a good look.”
The issue has also come to the attention of City of Greater Geraldton councillor Shane Van Styn, who last month persuaded fellow councillors to introduce differential rates for owners and developers who let their properties deteriorate.
Mr Styn said the new rates would encourage owners to maintain their properties until they could be re-let.
“Doing nothing is not an option,” he said.
“Once the new rates have been set they will provide an incentive for owners to look after their premises.”
According to Mr Van Styn, there had been speculation some landlords had evicted tenants and were refusing to re-let.
“It’s just nonsense. People are trying to lease these properties for businesses and they’re refusing,” he said.
“It just doesn’t make sense.”
But real estate agent Peter Sukiennik, of Ray White Geraldton, dismissed the claims.
He said in many cases buildings need a facelift, but it was too risky for landlords to make such an investment at this time.
“They need to know there will be tenants to pay the rents and see a return on their investment,” he said.
“In the current economic climate there’s no way landlords are going to take that risk.”
Mid West Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Bill Headley said retail sentiment had weakened across the nation after the Global Financial Crisis, but Geraldton had fared well, with new stores opening in the main shopping strip.
“Retailers are being innovative, offering variety for the community,” he said.
“The new Cavania store on Marine Tce is an example and Rice Buffet is a new seven-day dine-in and takeaway restaurant.”
Mr Headley said once Centro Stirlings Shopping Centre was upgraded, the CBD would draw more shoppers.
“That will really freshen up the look of retail and attract more people to the CBD,” he said.
Mr Sukiennik predicted brighter times for retailers in the not-too-distant future.
“At the rate Geraldton is growing, in four to five years the population will be big enough to support these businesses,” he said.
“We need people to see the future of Geraldton and stay long enough to support its growth.