Warrnambool’s Uniting Church is offering free rent for a month to business owners affected by the council’s city centre redevelopment.
The Uniting Church owns 12 shops south and west of the intersection of Liebig and Koroit Streets.
Ten are leased and two are used by the Uniting Church opportunity shop.
Tenants are being offered free rent for any month they choose between now and the end of the 2017-18 financial year.
Work on the southern section of the Liebig Street redevelopment is due to start in February.
Reverend Malcolm Frazer said the offer was part of the church’s investment in building the Warrnambool community.
“There’s no financial incentive for us, we just want to do our bit to assist traders in the street,” Reverend Frazer said.
There’s no financial incentive for us, we just want to do our bit to assist traders in the streetReverend Malcolm Frazer
“We realise it’s going to be tough over the next few months during the redevelopment.
“It’s going to be a better situation in the future with the new streetscape, but in the meantime we’ll bear some of the burden and support our tenants through this disruptive time.”
Allan Luke from Soulsby and Struth Pharmacy said the free rental period would be helpful. He has been a tenant since 2000.
“It’s good to get that windfall because it’s going to be difficult for some of our elderly customers to get in while the works are happening on the footpath, even though we’re going to have a back entrance and will offer home deliveries during the construction phase,” Mr Luke said.
“Hopefully the street will look nice in the end and hopefully it doesn’t take too long to complete.
“The free month will be helpful and I’d like to thank the church for the gesture.”
Reverend Frazer said funds from the shops’ rental had been shared in the wider community for years.
It has subsidised rent for the Food Share organisation since 2015.
The church has also supports other charitable organisations by allowing them to use vacant shops for short periods without charge.
The two-storey shops were constructed and leased by the church in 1930 on the site of the original Methodist church, built in 1850.