August 6, 2019
A “crazy idea” to buy a large slice of Proston’s CBD became reality last week when a community group acquired ownership of seven shops in Blake Street.
The shops, located between the town’s Spar supermarket and the library, form the core of Proston’s CBD and have been on the market for several years.
However, the limitations of the 1930s building that housed them and trends in modern retailing have seen the number of tenants steadily dwindle over time.
Last year, the Proston Round Table discussion group explored the idea of buying and refurbishing the building to attract new businesses to the town.
A few months later – after calling for community interest in the idea – several local residents incorporated Proston Queensland Ltd, a non-for-profit company, to examine the proposal in detail.
While they found it was a feasible idea and the building was capable of being refurbished to more contemporary standards, they were unable to raise the necessary cash to buy the property.
So it appeared the proposal was dead in the water.
But things changed suddenly when Deputy Mayor Kathy Duff received an unexpected inheritance.
Cr Duff, who spent her childhood in Proston, knew all about the project and shared the belief it was a viable idea.
So she donated the money to the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal (FRRR), a national grants body, on condition that FRRR assess the proposal and pass the money to Proston Queensland Ltd if they found it was a worthwhile project.
FRRR passed on the grant and contracts for the sale of the building were exchanged on July 29.
Proston Queensland is now the building’s landlord and will start out with one tenant: the Jacaranda Tearooms, operated by Nick and Anita Blanch.
Over time, through donations and grants, the groups hopes to renovate the entire building so that modern retail businesses can set up shop.
Peter Simpson, who is one of Proston Qld Ltd’s six directors, said the group expected reviving Proston’s CBD would be a long process.
But one immediate plan the group hopes to put into play is to open a Community Information Centre in the former newsagency so visitors can be encouraged to stay longer and explore the area.
Peter said at the moment, visitors who come into Proston on a weekend often turn around and leave because it appears nothing is open.
“We want to open an Information Centre where they can grab a cup of coffee or tea, get maps and brochures of the area, talk to people about things to see and do and maybe look over some historical displays to get a feeling for this area’s history,” he said.
“If we’re going to get more visitors and keep them in town longer, we need to work together as a community to do that, and a volunteer Community Information Centre is something we can do very quickly.”
To look at other ideas for the shops, a community meeting will be held at Proston Town Hall on Saturday, August 17, at 1:45pm.
Peter said the aim of the meeting was to look for suggestions about how best to use the property and any idea – no matter how unusual – was welcome.
“You never know where a good idea might come from,” he said.
“Sometimes a part of an idea can turn into something brilliant if you tweak it here and there.
“So we’d like everyone to come along and have a say.”