By Cam Lucadou-Wells
Little India traders fear they may be priced out of the $600 million redeveloped precinct on Foster Street, Dandenong.
Traders were recently briefed on the transformation of Melbourne’s oldest Indian retail hub, with lavish illustrations of vibrant lanes and high-rises.
During the first stage, the new Little India precinct will be built – so to minimize disruption for traders and retain its cultural identity, according to developers.
It’s said to include a supermarket, food market hall and residential development alongside Little India.
Traders say they have been offered to relocate to a yet-to-be constructed building in a car park on the corner of Thomas and Foster streets.
Four adjoining shops will be demolished as a result, traders say.
Steve Khan – vice-president of Little India Traders – had endured the Revitalising Central Dandenong works and road closures that brought Little India to a standstill a decade ago.
After the briefing, Mr Khan had “reservations” about the impact on the precinct’s 37 businesses.
He fears that retail rents may soar to unaffordable heights in the new building. The gradually staged demolitions were a work of “genius”, he said.
“They’re doing it in such a way that there’s some traders that will not be affected for 10 years, some even more.
“They’ve done it in such a methodical and careful way, they’ve left no room for anyone to object.
“We will have a meeting with all the traders and reflect on what they have told us.”
Long-term Little India trader Sudesh Singh said she was unsure of her fashion shop’s future in Foster Street.
“There’s no future, I don’t think, for any of the existing shops.
“We’re going to be paying three times more rent, so how are you going to survive? We sit in Dandenong, not in Doncaster.
“It’s very clear they will make a new Little India but make it for new (business) people or people with money sitting around to invest.”
Development partners Capital Alliance Investment Group and Development Victoria say about 2600 jobs will be created during construction with more than 5000 ongoing positions.
The redevelopment would include new offices, dwellings, a cinema, education facility and an Indian retail and dining precinct.
Community spaces, a hotel and conference centre, an urban brewery and a medical centre are also part of the mix.
Development Victoria precincts group head Geoff Ward said the feedback from Little India traders was “very positive”.
The investment was a “massive boost” for Dandenong, he said.
Developers would continue to work with traders to ensure a “smooth transition to alternative locations during construction”.
“All traders will be invited to enter into commercial arrangements with Capital Alliance Investment Group as part of the new Little India.”
A draft masterplan is expected to be ready for public consultation later this year.
Stage one of the project is expected to start in 2023, with completion in 2026.