Tag: Little India

Little India to shut in 2 years ; New development to start in 2023 at five sites

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By Neeraj Nanda

MELBOURNE, 1 December 2020: In a move that is likely to render more than 25 businesses inoperative and about 60 staff without work, the Victorian government has written to Little India stakeholders to get ready for shutting shop in the next two years as a developer has been selected to redevelop the area’s five sites.

A couple of weeks back shopkeepers received a letter stating the information about the possible demise of their businesses. Some years back when Ted Ballieu was the Premier the issue of Little India was himself raised by the current Premier Daniel Andrews visiting the only Indian Pricient in Victoria to express solidarity with traders. Later a rally was held by traders outside the Victorian Parliament to save the shopping complex.

The complex this year already reeling under a massive downturn because of the COVID-19 pandemic, could not recover during the recent festival season as sales did not pick up. The news of its imminent demise is nothing but a shocker, traders say.

The shopping complex has many iconic shops selling ethnic Indian/South Asian outfits, food, and sweets. It also houses the headquarters of the Federation of Indian Associations of Victoria (FIAV) and the Indian Museum apart from a new art gallery coming up at Mason Street soon.

According to the Revitalising Central Dandenong (RCD) Foster Street Redevelopment Fact sheet the successful developer and the precinct concept design will be announced in the coming months.

“Development Victoria acknowledges the social and cultural significance of the Little India precinct in central Dandenong and its contribution to the local economy. A prosperous, vibrant, and sustainable Little India precinct is an integral part of the Revitalising Central Dandenong vision. The proposed redevelopment aims to deliver enhanced retail and cultural offering within a contemporary, mixed-use development”, it says.

READ FULL INFO ABOUT RCD HERE

Talking to SAT, Vasan Srinivasan, former FIAV President and currently Chairman of the Mental Health Foundation of Australia says, ” I am disappointed at the move and the keys of the FIAV office and the Indian Museum have already been handed over to the authorities.”

No statement from the Little India traders has yet been received. But Mr. Manoj Kumar, ALP E-mailed us his view saying, “Little India precinct is an integral part of the city of Greater Dandenong offering a one-stop center for vibrant subcontinental cultures, ethnic fashion products, clothing, foods, and museum. We have been fighting since 2010 to retain this precinct and will continue to stand with Little India traders in this hour of need.”

The report will be updated as and when necessary with new facts and statements.

Free parking in Central Dandenong including Little India till 31 Dec 2020

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By SAT Community reporter

MELBOURNE, 12 November 2020: Diwali and Christmas shoppers got a massive boost with the Greater Dandenong Council announcing today on-street free parking till 31 December 2020. A spokesperson of the Council told SAT, the free parking area includes Foster Street which has the iconic Little India precinct.

“We strongly encourage residents to support local businesses. We hope that by offering free parking, more people will shop locally. This will help Greater Dandenong businesses recover from the challenging events of 2020 sooner, particularly as we lead up to the festive season,” Chief Executive Officer, Mr. John Bennie said.

Council will also introduce free parking at the Dandenong Market before 10 am, to help spread out the crowds at the site.

“As we welcome patrons back to services and precincts, we know Dandenong Market has been and will continue to be a popular choice for many people. From November 13, free parking will be offered until 10 am every market day (Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday). Free parking is currently available all-day Sunday. We hope this will attract people in the early morning, and even out the numbers across the day.”

Time limits still apply to all parking bays and will be enforced. The offer of free parking does not include off-street car parks in central Dandenong or the Dandenong Market car parks after 10 am.

“While it’s important to attract more people back to local business, it’s also vital to make sure we all stay safe so we can stay open,” Mr. Bennie said.
Council staff along with DHHS have set up a marquee at the market to assist traders with COVID safe practices, and to engage with the general public by offering free masks and information.

Little India’s ‘Dulhan’ makes & distributes free pandemic masks amidst the lockdown

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Hitesh Shah at Dulhan. Photo-Supplied.

By Neeraj Nanda

MELBOURNE, 13 October: The one and only ‘Little India’ in Greater Dandenong’s Foster Street has almost been shut because of the pandemic for months now. The once-bustling enclave of sub-continent culture, food, and garments has a deserted look. Business is down and retailers with their staff face a grim future.

But during these times one retailer Hitesh Shah, who runs the ‘Dulhan’ garments store is along with his wife Bina Shah and staff is making face masks for essential workers, elderly and vulnerable people and managed to keep a few people in employment.

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“About 1,000 non-woven shopping bags lying in the shop came handy and some elastic added to them and smart tailoring by international students led to well-made masks.

We were able to make 6.000 masks and distributed them free in aged care homes, to health care staff, and to vulnerable elderly people. Some of the masks were posted to needy addresses, ” Hitesh told South Asia Times (SAT).

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“Meanwhile, the compulsory order to wear face masks came, and Dulhan was flooded with many requests. We also made it a point to make the masks with strict hygiene and maintain social distancing during the production process, says Bina Shah, one of the Founder-Director of JITO Australia, and runs the IAEC Education & Immigration business.

Say the husband-wife team, ” We feel happy doing this work and turning this negative and depressing period into positive activity for the community and business.”

Dulhan/Hitesh Shah/Bina Shah can be contacted at – dulhanexclusives@gmail.com

Little India’s muddled future as Development Victoria floats “Expressions of Interest” for redevelopment

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By Neeraj Nanda

MELBOURNE, 17 July: It’s 1.9-hectare site and one part is iconic Little India, the only Indian prescient in Victoria with about 30 plus ethno specific businesses. The place which took about 20 years to develop with a unique subcontinental ambiance, today faces an uncertain future and the traders confused over what is in store for them.

The Development Victoria on behalf of the Victorian Government has initiated a redevelopment plan with six segments including the now Little India area; “construction is expected to commence in 2023 and could be staged over a number of years”.

The plan is expected to kick-off, according to a Community Feedback Form if a developer makes an “expression of interest” (July 2019) followed by a staggered process with “Request for proposal” (October 2019), “Appointment of successful developer/consortia” (Mid-2020) and “Commencement of community consultation on design” (Late-2020) and the “Commencement of construction” (From 2023).

A group of Little India traders who went for a “Community Information Session” on 17 July 2019 at the Dandenong Council Centre were explained this proposed timeline by Yogita Silva of Development Victoria.

“What you want to see in the development we want to know”, said Yogita.

Development Victoria says, “Development Victoria acknowledges the social, cultural and economic significance of Little India prescient in central Dandenong.”

“Development Victoria is committed to working with local businesses, traders and the local community during the process. Furthermore, Development Victoria is seeking for developers to allocate spaces for Indian retail and cultural offerings in the new precinct,” it says.

When SAT asked Yogita, if there will be a specified section designated as Little India in the proposed development, she said, “Don’t forget it’s going to be a private developer.”

It is this issue that has made the proposed development plans rather hazy for the Little India traders. Will “Indian retail and cultural offerings” mean a designated Little India or Indian cultural prescient?

Mr. Manoj Kumar, former ALP candidate for Forest Hill said at the information session, “ The Little India prescient heritage should remain here and the interest of the traders looked after as they are the ones who contributed to this heritage.”

Mr. Sharma who runs two successful Calcutta Sweets outlets in Little India says, “It is not that I just want a place for my individual businesses but want Little India prescient as an exclusive designated place in the new development.”

“I have spent a lifetime here, give employment to many people and have invested big amounts which have made us successful but in a situation where I am separated from the united culturally specific Little India, our identity loss will hurt our business also. I am not against development but want to preserve Little India as a whole,” Mr. Sharma told the SAT.

Rashid Sultan, a regular shopper at Little India says, “It will seize to exist if the private sector is allowed to have their say in the name of redevelopment.”

The shop owners say business has already started to drop after the redevelopment announcement. They fondly remember when many years back the present Premier Hon Daniel Andrews, was the Leader of Opposition, came to Little India to support the traders and save the Indian prescient’s exclusive cultural personality. Later grants were announced which remains partly unspent.

Vasan Srinivasan, Confederation of Indian Associations President told Dandenong Star Journal, “This is going to destroy many lives of Indian traders and those working for those traders.

What was the use of spending $ 500,000 to decorate it when Little India is going to be wiped off?”

But the Dandenong MP Gabrielle Williams told the same publication, “we will work with local businesses and the community every step of the way as we deliver the next phase of this exciting project.”

Traders fear business losses as Vic govt. announces to incorporate Little India in the New Central Dandenong development starting 2023

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By Neeraj Nanda

MELBOURNE, 6 July: The land, next to the Dandenong Railway Station, including the Little India (Indian prescient) on Foster Street is likely to be part of a Victoria Government plan announced on 4 July, to redevelop as the ‘New Central Dandenong’ with construction starting 2023.

“Redevelopment of the 1.9-hectare site, bordered by Halpin Way, Cheltenham Road and Dandenong Railway Station, is expected to attract up to $100 million private sector investment in central Dandenong,” says a media release from the office of The Hon. Gavin Jennibgs MLC, Minister for Priority Precincts.

Minister Gavin Jennings says, “From the centre of Dandenong, the benefits of renewal will resonate throughout this vibrant and fast-developing community and we’re proud to be leading such an important initiative.”

Talking to SAT, Foster Street Traders Association (Little India Prescient) President Mr. Shahid Syed says, ‘this decision will hurt business and to discuss the issue the traders are holding a meeting on 9 July to give their response.”

The media release further says, “Subject to a developer being appointed in 2020, construction would start in 2023. The Revitalising Central Dandenong project represents a $290 million investment by the Victorian Government which has enabled close to $700 million in private investment, creating and supporting jobs across the wider Dandenong region.”

Member for Dandenong Gabrielle Williams says, “The Revitalising Central Dandenong project is transforming Dandenong, enabling the city to continue to grow and
meet the needs of the community.”
“We will work with local businesses and the community every step of the way as we deliver the next phase of this exciting project.”

The Little India prescient issue in Dandenong has been a hot potato with Little India traders opposing redevelopment plans many years back when the state was ruled by the Coalition led by Premier Ted Baillieu and the now Premier Hon. Daniel Andrews being the opposition leader.

An agitation by Little India traders supported by the Indian/South Asian communities to save Little India culminated into a rally in front of the Victorian Parliament. Subsequently, Hon. Daniel Andrews became the Premier and pledged to help Little India and its traders with many announcements.

It now remains to be seen what stand the Little India traders take and how the Andrews Labour government responds to it.