$62m question: Where to now for traders?

Wax off: Angie Bottari is feeling fleeced by Places Victoria. Picture: Ted Kloszynski

By CAMERON LUCADOU-WELLS

BRAZILIAN waxer Angie Bottari and fellow nearby traders are making way for Dandenong’s new civic centre but are struggling to find suitable premises.

Ms Bottari, like almost half a block of traders in Walker, Thomas and Lonsdale streets, must vacate by May ahead of demolition for Greater Dandenong’s $62 million complex.

She claims that after three years of cripplingly poor trade, she is unable to afford a nearby shop at higher rent.

Ms Bottari says her “niche” business Angie’s Massage and Male Waxing has been hit hard by construction works since Places Victoria started ‘revitalising’ central Dandenong in 2008.

“I put up with the construction period as they were putting the big [government services] building up. Now the business is just starting to get going again, I’m out.”

She feels forsaken compared to Little India precinct traders who successfully campaigned for compensation and rent relief from the state government.

Ms Bottari received six months’ free rent but without a written lease, she says Places Victoria won’t give her the $60,000 she needs to relocate her waxing parlour.

She rebuffed Places Victoria’s suggested relocation to “old and mouldy” shops in Vanity Court Arcade.

Martin Hashemi, who runs Afghan Bazaar in Walker Street, has been offered $40,000 compensation and free rent but finding a new site has proved difficult.

He says his business dived since works began and parking bays were removed outside his shop.

At Badir Variety Store in Walker Street, a service woman said they were yet to discuss compensation with Places Victoria but believes “different rules” apply to Little India shops.

“We don’t know where to go. The shops around here are going to be too expensive to rent.”

Cr Jim Memeti, who used to be Ms Bottari and Mr Hashemi’s landlords before Places Victoria acquired the properties, said: “I’m not sure if tenants can expect their rent to be the same. After the revitalisation, we’re looking to raise the bar – we can’t have $2 shops on Lonsdale Street, we want restaurants and cafes.”

A spokesman for Planning Minister Matthew Guy said the case for Little India traders was “quite unique”. “The [compensation] is open to just those traders at this stage. There will be no extension to anyone else.”

Places Victoria didn’t comment before deadline.

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