ABOUT 70 Hilton residents held a protest outside their local IGA on Tuesday as anger grows over its replacement with one of Australia’s big supermarket chains.
As reported in the Herald, IGA owner Gino Divitini was gazumped by one of the big players offering a multi-million redevelopment of the site, despite thinking he was ready to sign off on a new lease and his own upgrade (“Supermarket wars claim another IGA,” November 22, 2020).
Mr Divitino, whose lease runs out in April, suspects Coles is behind the application for a 24/7 supermarket, cafe and liquor outlet, saying they’ve twice tried to buy him out in the 12 years he’s owned the store.
There was plenty of sympathy for Mr Divitini and his staff from protesters who say big supermarkets won’t offer them the same personalised service, but their main focus was the strip’s notorious intersection.
Despite Fremantle council spending $300,000 in 2018 to create a “safe and welcoming environment”, another elderly woman was hospitalised after being hit on the South Street crosswalk on November 15.
One of the protest organisers, Ben Lawver, said a big shopping centre would add to an already dangerous mix.
“If built, the new grocer will benefit from 132 new car parking bays, which is nearly triple what currently exists on site, and if a national grocery chain replaces the local IGA as expected, grocery delivery trucks and the extra 24/7 car traffic will be forced onto local roads which pass directly in front of the local community centre and a primary school,” Mr Lawver said.
General manager of the Carcione Group which owns the site, Ray Pardo, told the Herald they were aware of the traffic issue, but didn’t believe the new development would create additional problems.
“In the application there is a traffic impact statement which shows no significant increase in traffic because trade is across a broader range of hours,” Mr Pardo said.
Carcione had contacted Main Roads to see if the new development could be designed to alleviate problems, but the department was firm that the council’s new traffic treatments were compliant with its regulations and nothing was to be changed.
Traffic from the supermarket will not be allowed to exit or enter onto South Street, fuelling Mr Lawver’s fears of local streets getting clogged up with rat runners.
In a statement, Mr Pardo also denied Mr Divitini had been blindsided by his eviction: “The landlord has been actively engaged with the current tenant during the last 18 months, in relation to the redevelopment and upgrade of the site,” he said.
“The tenant made it clear on several occasions that they were unable to meet the commercial terms that were required to undertake the redevelopment proposed.”
Mr Pardo said they’d dropped the rent during Covid and extended Mr Divitini’s lease, giving him the opportunity to walk away with a “significant profitable position”.
Protester Janice Pounder says it’s the third time she’s tried to fend off big corporations moving into Hilton, while Matt Watson brought his two kids down.
“My primary concern is that the development hasn’t thought of the impacts on the roads bringing more traffic through the backstreets which is very concerning for my wife and I as we have a young family,” Mr Watson said.
Emily said consulting when the drawings were on the table was too late: “I would ask the developer to reconsider because a large development is not suitable to the site because of the traffic dangers; they should consult with the community and local business owners who have done so much for the community.”
But Mr Pardo says the owners are consulting as required by the council’s planning processes.
by STEVE GRANT and COOPER BYERS