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THE future of Invercargill inner city businesses remain in limbo as a multimillion-dollar development planned for the inner city progresses.

HWCP Management Ltd has lodged an application for resource consent with the Invercargill City Council (ICC) to build a covered retail complex encompassing the block bordered by Dee, Kelvin, Esk and Tay Sts.

The submissions period closes tomorrow.

HWCP is a joint venture between the Invercargill City Property Ltd, owned by the ICC’s Holdco, and HWR Property Ltd, part of the HW Richardson Group.

HWCP director Scott O’Donnell said hearings were expected to be held in February.

“If it goes according to plan and we get consent in March… then we will start [demolition] as soon as we physically can.”

In August/September, the Southland Express spoke to several business owners in the inner city block earmarked for the development about their difficulties in finding suitable alternative premises in the CBD and their ability to fund the move.

The owners of Pinch of Spice Indian restaurant, Stirling Sports and Zookeepers Cafe were among those looking for new premises and seeking financial assistance from HWCP to help them relocate their businesses.

The Southland Express checked back in with them.

Pinch of Spice owner Manish Singh said he was still struggling to find a suitable alternative site for his Indian restaurant.

He had been given several options, one of which was the Vault Cafe in the SIT Arcade, but he said it did not have the commercial kitchen facilities he needed.

Mr Singh said he had not received any communication from HWCP for several months and still did not know when he was required to move out.

“It looks like they are not really wanting to help.

“It is really scary and depressing.”

Mr Singh said he still had six years left on his current lease.

Stirling Sports owner Ken Anderson said he was “still in a holding pattern”.

He had found a potential alternative site, but plans were still in the early stages, he said.

Mr Anderson had also not been informed about when he needed to vacate his premises or whether he would be given any financial assistance to move, he said.

“It is definitely frustrating. We would like some certainty and the quicker we can get on to it the better for us.”

Mr Anderson and his wife Michelle had taken out a second mortgage in order to set up the franchise on the south side of Esk St two years ago. They had signed a six-year lease with the right of renewal, a lease which he said did not include a demolition clause.

Zookeepers Cafe owner Paul Clark said he had a possible plan, but nothing had been confirmed at this stage.

He had not had any further communication from HWCP, he said.

Mitre Wealth Management owner Stephen O’Connor said he supported the development, but was concerned about its impact on businesses in the affected block.

Mitre Wealth Management is located in the affected block.

“The plans for the block are fantastic. Something drastic needed to be done to progress the city,” he said.

“However, it will be very disruptive to existing businesses which have to relocate.

“I am not sure there has been enough thought given to the disruption and how those businesses affected can be helped.”

Mr O’Donnell said each affected business’ commercial circumstances were different, so HWCP would have separate discussions with each one and negotiate on a case-by-case basis.

“We will sit down with each party and try to get an outcome through negotiation.”

Because the timeframe for the development was contingent on the hearing process, HWCP was unable to give businesses a definitive exit date at this stage, he said.

“We are hoping for action in early 2019, but need to get through the consenting process.”

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