Going Downhill on Fitzroy Street

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By Mary McConville

 

The once lively Fitzroy Street in St Kilda is having financial difficulties and the atmosphere on the street is heading down market. In a short space between Gray Street and Acland Street at least six shop fronts are closed and vacant. Some of the closures are due to a long term decline. Some opened, failed and closed very quickly. One example of this was a punk YoGo shop that didn’t bring in any customers and was consequently closed after six weeks. Is punk YoGo an oxymoron? Most YoGos attract a rather innocent clientele with its sweet and milky products.

Parking is a problem, with limited spaces available for drivers and there have been complaints about the two-way bike lane and the raised tram tracks.

There are several theories regarding the reasons for Fitzroy Street’s decline. One major theory puts the problem down to greed, with rents being raised to unrealistic levels, a lack of retail variety, high parking costs and a push to cater for an increasing number of backpackers.

The Federal Member for Parliament Michael Danby has a lot to say about this problem. As his office is in Fitzroy Street he is directly affected by these problems. He said that “Fitzroy Street’s recent decline can almost be chronicled to the demise of Chronicles Bookshop five years ago … Cutting out the cultural heart of Fitzroy Street has had a cascade effect …”

Michael Danby has been putting up posters in the windows of the nearby vacant stores, stating his views on who is to blame for the area’s decline. Unhappy landlords have torn down these posters but he maintains his opinions, holding to the ancient Greek idea that “hubris leads to nemesis”.

Not all of Fitzroy’s Street’s residents hold such glum views. Alan Almeida who is hopeful that he will be able to find some tenants for an empty food business told The Age that “St Kilda and Fitzroy Street have been up and down in the last 100 years or so. At the moment  we’re going on a little bit of a downer, but it’ll pass.”

Another St Kilda resident is even more cheerful. Jason Fiddler at St Kilda Cellars said that “It’s not as rough as everyone says it does…” To which one of the pub’s regulars just replied with a deleted expletive.

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