'We want life back in the mall'
PAULINE Williamson admits she will be dancing with joy when she sees work start on the $150 million Ipswich City Square redevelopment.
Ms Williamson has owned Ipswich City Mall Newsagents for two years and is one of many Ipswich Mall business owners getting ready for D-day, when works start in the second half of this year.
But as she waits for that day she admits to a mixture of optimism and trepidation.
"I'll be so happy when I see that shovel go in the ground," Ms Williamson said.
"I will be dancing in the window.
"The sooner the better as far as I am concerned.
"The community wants it fixed up. They want to see it back to life. They say all the time 'it used to be a hive of activity and now look at it'.
"Now they have got it in their heads that the whole place is being demolished, but I try and get through to them that it will be done in sections."
Ms Williamson likes several aspects of the council's plan.
She said moving the library to the CBD was "a major plus" and would increase foot traffic.
"It will be better for older people too because it is a bit of a trek up the hill (to the current location)," she said.
While she welcomed the plan to have cafes and restaurants in the precinct, which she said would "breathe life" into the mall, she said the right mix of businesses was vital.
"Losing Woolworths was a major blow because it was so handy for people," she said.
Workers at knock-off time and people who use public transport would get what they needed and circulate in her business and buy magazines or a Lotto ticket.
"So I still think we need some department stores or maybe a supermarket," she said.
"Not everyone wants to go to Riverlink."
When the work starts, all Ms Williamson wants is for it to be done strategically so it does not impact businesses unduly.
"Hopefully they don't block us in too much.
"They tell me that what we will lose in footpath traffic we will pick up with tradesmen, but I don't know about that.
"If they can complete one end first and progressively work their way through that will really help."
One shining point that came through talking to Ms Williamson was that she wanted the redevelopment to work.
She knows there will be some short-term pain.
The QT spent time in the newsagency yesterday morning and Ms Williamson's customers were all salt of the earth Ipswich people.
She has experienced tragedy on a personal level and hardships with her business, but she has no intention of moving.
"It is either do or die. I'm damned if I do and damned if I don't," she said.
"My husband bought this business and had multiple strokes three days into it, so I had to learn in a big hurry how to run it.
"So it has been a bit of a trial from day one."
"But most of my customers are absolutely wonderful - good community minded people.
"I had a tragedy last year when I lost my son and all these people who were strangers to me two years ago were coming in giving me hugs and kisses and all sorts of things.
"It has restored my faith in human nature. At the end of the day I am saying that I don't want to leave here.
"I don't want to move. I love Ipswich and I love the CBD and the old aspects of it, with its charm and character.
"This place can be revived. They just need to put something into it and bring the CBD back to its former glory."