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HomeIssue 17Northern end of the mall reopens

Northern end of the mall reopens

Traffic officially returned to the northern end of Todd Mall this morning for the first time in 28 years (apart from special occasions). But more importantly people came out in good number to enjoy the new public spaces created as part of the mall redesign. It will be the ongoing presence of people, locals and visitors alike, that will be critical to the hoped for revitalisation of the town’s premier ‘street’.
Removable bollards can also keep traffic out and the area can be reserved for pedestrians, as it was for most of the celebrations this morning and will be on market days.
In offering the Welcome to Country, Barbara Satour, traditional owner and member of the Liddle family, said in good humour that she wasn’t quite sure she liked what had been done. A bit too much cement, not enough bitumen and dust.
As for ‘statues’, there was one towering above her – The Grandfather Tree: “That’s our statue, it represents all us Arrernte people of Central Australia.” She hoped all the other surviving gum trees would be left, not knocked down in favour of something “in iron”. On the whole, the new look was a “good thing really, if you like city life”, she laughed, before expressing her delight in Carlton’s AFL win and wishing everyone well.
A key feature of the redesign has been to de-clutter the approach to the magnificent Grandfather Tree and to link it to another tree of significance on the banks of the Todd, reorienting the centre of town towards the river, as pointed out by Mayor Damien Ryan. From the tree on the bank, looking west along Parsons Street there is a clear sightline to a range in the west – “part of Dingo Dreaming,” said Mayor Ryan, “a very important line for the original inhabitants of Alice Springs.”
Central Australian Dreaming stories are also referenced in the Yeperenye moth shade structures, dotted along Parsons Street and the northern mall.
In front of the old tree, a depression in the paved surface creates a Pool of Reflection. In keeping with the natural rhythms of Central Australia it will normally fill only after rain. The bricks in its centre are made from Ooraminna sandstone, leftovers from the original Civic Centre construction.
Hidden away beneath the new works are also 70 cubic metres of crushed glass, lining the plumbing trenches, a good reuse of a resource that would once have gone straight to the landfill.
The stage in front of the Grandfather Tree today is a movable structure and Mayor Ryan said the view of last night’s sunset through the tree and reflected in the pool was a sight to behold.
Among the many thankyous he extended one to the traders for putting up with the noise and disruption and said council would be working with them now to ensure plenty of traffic along the strip. He hopes people will come into the area, drop off friends; he and Minister for Central Australia Matt Conlon both pointed to the relocated visitor information centre as a boon for the area. A parking bay for coaches has been provided opposite.
A good sign this morning was to see one of the Alice Plaza businesses, the pharmacy, opening its doors onto the mall and putting out goods for sale on the footpath. Further up Piccolo’s was taking advantage of the winter sun, serving its customers at al fresco tables.


  1. It was pleasing to see a sign in the new “street” announcing it was a shared car and pedestrian zone and restricting speed to 10kph. On closer inspection I realised that this applied to about 50 metres and not the whole development area.
    Why not I ask? Why not the whole CBD?
    If you want the CBD revitalised you need more pedestrians and cyclists, not cars.
    By the way where, has the cycle parking gone?

  2. I really do hope this latest exercise in rejuvenating the original CBD area of town works this time.
    It’s interesting to follow the timeline of the history of Todd Mall. The Mall was first proposed in 1969 as one of the recommendations of the landmark HKF Report in Tourism for Central Australia, released by the Australian Tourist Commission. The chairman of the Town Management Board (precursor to the Alice Springs Town Council), Brian Martin, became a staunch supporter of this concept; and later, when he replaced Jock Nelson as Mayor in 1973, he again pushed very hard for the mall’s development.
    However, when the town council finally supported the construction of a compromise development in late 1977, ironically, it came about after Mayor George Smith (who, as a businessman in Todd Street, was completely opposed to the mall concept) put a motion to the town council in the expectation of having it defeated!
    The semi-mall (or “Todd Small”, as it was dubbed by local wags), with a one-way road for traffic, was officially opened by Governor-General Sir Zelman Cowen, in April 1978. Not long afterwards there was a by-election for two positions for alderman on the town council – one of these was won by Leslie Oldfield.
    Attention turned in the early 1980s to converting the Todd semi-mall into a full pedestrian mall. Mayor George Smith remained firmly opposed to this concept; however, he retired from council in early 1983, and by the end of that year had sold his business George Smith Jewellers in Turner Arcade that faced onto Todd Street (now a carpark opposite the cinema) and left Alice Springs.
    In the by-election that followed George Smith’s departure, Leslie Oldfield was elected as Mayor in a landslide – and it was she who became the major force in supporting the development of the fully pedestrian Todd Mall. She officiated at its formal opening on October 14, 1987, with Deputy Chief Minister (and local Member for Flynn) Ray Hanrahan by her side. Hanrahan represented the NT Government, from which the millions of dollars had been granted for the construction of Todd Mall.
    Within weeks of the Mall’s opening, it had become a no-go zone at night due to marauding gangs of youths committing acts of vandalism and assaulting pedestrians.
    Business activity also declined because of the simultaneous opening of the Yeperenye Shopping Centre, effectively diluting a limited retail market across the CBD area (the same situation, incidentally, had occurred with the opening of the Coles Complex in 1980, impacting on the Todd semi-mall – and prompting debate about converting it into a full pedestrian mall!).
    From 1990 onwards there have regularly been pushes by local traders to open up Todd Mall (especially the northern end) to traffic again. This was partially achieved with the construction of a cul-de-sac at the top end of the Mall off Wills Terrace in the mid 1990s, together with the development of more parking space replacing the old Shell Todd Service Station on the corner. As I recall, this re-development also cost taxpayers $5 million, too.
    Yet it wasn’t enough, so we’ve now ended up with this new re-development. So Alice Springs has now witnessed four significant redevelopments of Todd Street-cum-Mall in four decades, at the cost of several millions of taxpayers’ dollars.
    Like I say, I do hope this latest exercise in expenditure of public money on Todd Mall really does work this time.

  3. Great post Alex Nelson (Posted July 23, 2013 at 10:42 am). Like you I hope that is the end of public investment in pursuit of the Mall dream. I find it difficult to imagine how the area will thrive while there are large air-conditioned shopping centres near supermarkets elsewhere in the CBD, drawing most shoppers away from the Mall, and while the Alice Plaza design requires that most shops along the western side of the redeveloped section necessarily orient themselves away from the Mall – i.e. they have to open into the interior of the Alice Plaza, as they can’t afford to have staff covering two exits from their small operations.

  4. I need to make a correction to my original post, it seems my memory concerning the construction of the cul-de-sac at the north end of Todd Mall didn’t fail me; however, I’ve conflated two developments of the carpark adjacent to that area.
    The cul-de-sac was built in August 1993. At the same time there was a major internal redevelopment of Ford Plaza (now Alice Plaza), which included the demolition of Turner Arcade to make way for a new carpark accessed via the Todd Mall cul-de-sac.
    The cul-de-sac cost ratepayers $120,000 but the owners of Ford Plaza spent considerably more on their project. It was also at this time that the Alice Springs Cinema added a third theatre to its complex.
    All of this was intended to rejuvenate the north end of Todd Mall.
    It’s interesting to note that the construction of the cul-de-sac was delayed as workers struck upon unexpected underground services. History, of course, has repeated itself here exactly 20 years later with the recent development of Todd Street in this vicinity!
    In 2002 the Shell Todd Service Station ceased operating; it was subsequently demolished to make way for more car parking space at the north end of Todd Mall.
    So we have a timeline here of 1993, 2003, and now 2013, where we have witnessed an ever-increasing encroachment of traffic into the north end of Todd Mall, all of which is intended to “revitalize” this part of the CBD.
    When one takes into consideration the entire history of the rise and fall of the Todd Mall, it’s worth remembering that at all stages these developments have been studied, consulted and promoted by many experts and professionals (all paid top dollar for their expertise, no doubt!) – and of course with every subsequent development the public is informed these decisions are made in the best interests of our town.
    Now expand this to all other areas where professionals and government officials make decisions to spend our taxpayers’ dollars – always intended for the public’s benefit, of course! – and it becomes very easy to see just why the governance and administration of our town and region never seems to be anything other than a long-running saga of complete stuff-ups!

  5. Two-way traffic down a winding street, even a street with extended pedestrian crossings or “shared zones” and wide side-walks, is not a Mall. It’s a street with two-way traffic.
    A photo in the local press made this street look busy as. I was there Monday morning, and it was empty as.
    Like before, so now. The Plaza keeps its back turned, the bottle shop dictates the social ambience and any pedestrians seen are scooting from the car park to the cinema.
    Once again please, why did we just spend those millions? Was it really just to get rid of those pesky sails?

  6. ‘Bin in the so called Mall a few times since Saturday – as usual, nothing much is going on … Alice population and visitors numbers have not increased because of the opening of the Mall. In fact the southern end seems more “active” than the northern side! And I miss the Sails … But hope is in the air and life will return with spring. The little waterhole (puddle? soak?) may attract birds and children.

  7. PS – motor vehicle access had never allowed for more pedestrians enjoyment or safety!

  8. My suggestion of a full street shared zone has not been picked up by any commentators. If it worked then the whole CBD could convert to a shared zone.
    And I still ask – where has the bike parking gone?

  9. In reply to Richard Bentley, it’s exactly five years ago that I spent two months in Riga, the capital city of Latvia. The Old City within the CBD area is a shared traffic / pedestrian zone, where pedestrians have right-of-way in all of the streets against vehicles. Not only that, but all vehicles allowed in this part of the CBD must first obtain special permits. The system appeared to work remarkably well.
    Imagine if this idea could be introduced for Parsons and Hartley Street, and for Leichhardt Terrace, too? In fact, it was proposed in the 1970s to make Parsons Street a pedestrian mall up to the intersection of Bath Street, in addition to Todd Mall.
    To my mind Latvia made an interesting case study which has a strong relevance to Central Australia – this is because (by European standards) this country is remote and under-populated, and has to compete with significant difficulty against every other country in Europe to attract visitors during a limited seasonal period.
    A major contrast with Alice Springs is that Riga has maintained a strong emphasis on the value of its built heritage, with much of its Art Nouveau architecture of comparatively recent origin – yet the Old City of Riga is now registered as a UN World Heritage site.
    The nearest equivalent we can hope to achieve in Central Australia now is to get the MacDonnell Ranges listed as a World Heritage site for its environmental value – but that’s increasingly (and rapidly) being compromised because of the encroachment of buffel grass. Nothing of any lasting result for its management is being done.


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