Secrets and mystery as Big Top tenants kept in the dark
BUSINESSES at Big Top Shopping Centre are itching for a new commercial tenant or tenants to move into the former Farmer's Quarter spaces, but there is no official word from centre managers on plans.
Rumours are circulating that Strike Bowling and Big Top owner LaSalle are in discussion about opening the popular entertainment venue at the central Maroochydore shopping centre.
Two large spaces that had been used for markets were vacated when operator Shane Stanley Farmers' Markets closed in May.
Strike Bowling is like traditional ten pin bowling, but with music, modern decor and gourmet food, according to its website.
Theme rooms have games, laser tag and karaoke are on offer.
Its first venue was in Melbourne's Chapel St where it was set up by parent company Funlab in 2001, and a Maroochydore venue would be the third in Queensland - the first north of Brisbane.
When asked about the rumour that Strike might be coming to Big Top, the centre's marketing manager advised LaSalle would not comment on any commercial deal unless it was signed and final.
"We're being told by LaSalle that some big anchor tenants are coming, and when they come that'll also have a big impact on foot traffic," Donut Boyz owner Scott Hoskins said.
Heritage Bank recently moved in, relocating from Sunshine Plaza where it had been for 17 years, but it would not have much effect on foot traffic, he predicted.
"There were some rumours a while ago around Strike Bowling, which is on the market, and I believe the buyer is interested in setting up at Big Top," he said.
"La Salle has definitely come from a space of wanting some entertainment-style tenants in there as opposed to fashion, which I think is smart."
Other tenants at Big Top told the Daily they had heard rumours that everything from fashion outlets to entertainment businesses was being pursued, but had been provided little news by the centre managers on their progress in securing major tenants.
Would you like to see a bowling alley open at the Big Top shopping centre?
This poll ended on 26 September 2016.
No, I don't think it's the right fit.
I wouldn't use it personally but it probably would be good for businesses in the centre.
This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.
"Everything's a bloody secret," one tenant said. "They keep saying 'things are happening', but they can't tell us just yet. That's been going on for about 12 months."
Some of the frustration expressed by tenants relates to information several tenants said they received in 2013 and 2014 before the renovated centre reopened, by the real estate agent selling commercial leases for former owner Reed Property Group.
A document Urbis prepared for Reed Property Group and dated February 2013, sighted by the Daily, stated that 3.7 million people would pass through the centre annually.
Current and former tenants say these figures were "exaggerated" and "massively over-estimated", with footfall numbers a fraction of those predicted.
Asked what the reason for the discrepancy was, LaSalle's marketing officer did not respond before deadline and has previously indicated no response could be provided.
Mr Hoskins' acknowledged the frustration other businesses had with respect of footfall numbers, but stopped short of sympathising.
"I don't feel sorry for anyone that chooses to go into business, because everyone should know the risk of small business when they decide to make that choice," he said.
"Sometimes it doesn't work out. So it's a bit like feeling sorry for a gambler.
"With no disrespect to others, I know one thing that won't help their cause, and that's going around talking about how sh*t it is."
Mr Hoskins and business partner Tony Kelly own Donut Boyz, located inside the centre opposite Good Bean Espresso and across from Maroochydore Newsagency and Malouf Pharmacy.
They also own Ocean St eateries Hello Harry and Junk, which are credited with helping lift the culture of Ocean St, which is now a dining destination and emerging business district as well as host for a number of street events and festivals.
Mr Hoskins said he believed LaSalle, an international investment firm operating in 17 countries, was "a sophisticated enough business" to "get some of these big anchor tenants in there".
"I guess you could make the assumption they (LaSalle) don't have anything to tell them (tenants) yet," Mr Hoskins said.
He said the need for more diversity in shopping and eating options was one reason he had "jumped on board" the Maroochydore revitalisation project.
"As a community, we need the Big Top...not everyone wants to go to the Sunshine Plaza and do their shopping," he said.
"People want to go somewhere where it's not all multinationals - it's the local business person making a living."
A Sunshine Coast Council spokesman confirmed there were no current development or building applications for a bowling alley within the Big Top Shopping Centre in Maroochydore, but advised council approval would not necessarily be needed for such refurbishments.
"The Big Top Shopping Centre operates under an existing approval for a shopping complex, which allows for some changes to internal tenancies without the requirement for further planning approvals," he said.