Brisbane Archdiocese mulls future for empty Stock Exchange Hotel


This month, the Archdiocese applied to Brisbane City Council for an extension on an approved demolition application lodged in 2016 by the former owners.

Although the Archdiocese is asking for an extension, it’s understood another lessee would be welcomed into the venue to replace the Riversdale Group.

In a statement, the Archdiocese said there were “no immediate plans for the site given the unexpected end of the previous lease”.

“COVID-19 has thrown up many surprises, including in the CBD which has been impacted by the shift to remote work for many people,” the statement said.

“In that environment, there has been no chance to provide detailed consideration of plans for the site.”

The demolition application, as approved in 2017, allows for the removal of the “modern building fabric” at the back of the hotel, retaining an 1880s extension to the original building on Edward Street as well as the original hotel on the corner.

The demolition application approved by the council in 2016 would remove a number of modern additions to the Stock Exchange Hotel on Edward Street in Brisbane.

A heritage report lodged with the original demolition application noted the demolition would have “negligible impact” on the heritage aspects of the site.

“What little original early fabric remaining on the site which is recognisable as such … will be retained,” the report said.

At the time, the Archdiocese objected to the demolition application, writing to the council in January 2017 that any demolition would directly impact properties it owned either side – Penola Place on Edward Street, and Archives Building on Charlotte Street.

But after purchasing the site in mid-2019, the Archdiocese asked the council to extend the demolition application for another three years; the council granted a one-year extension.

On January 11 this year, the Archdiocese lodged a fresh request to extend the demolition approval, out to 2023.

In a letter to the council on behalf of the Archdiocese, planners Urbis said the Archdiocese had invested “significant resources and time” into the site, but the economic impact of the pandemic had put work on hold.

The council has not yet responded to the extension request.

The Archdiocese statement said the hotel and the grounds of St Stephen’s Cathedral had “coexisted for more than 150 years”.

“There are no plans to do anything that would disrupt the valuable green space provided by the Cathedral grounds, which are available to anyone to relax during the day.”

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New-look Kings come up empty against Taipans in season-opener


But just one point down during the final moments of the game, Ware (18 points, two rebounds) proved unable to emulate Tate in producing a miracle basket despite a stellar performance throughout the entire match.
The decision to rest the Kings’ biggest inclusion for the season in former NBA star Jarell Martin (11points, eight rebounds) also put the Kings at a disadvantage.

Ultimately the squad was not able to match Scott Machado, who finished his 31 minutes in the game with 17 points and eight rebounds.

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Cairns were clearly not hurting too badly from the loss of DJ Newbill to Japan’s basketball league after being named the best defensive player in the NBL last season.

The Kings were eager to make a statement early with Craig Moller quickly finding his feet in a support role to Ware, who fired immediately after the first buzzer.

Electing not to include Martin in their starting five to limit his load, the Kings ignited upon his short appearance following the first time out to take out the high-scoring quarter 30-24. Despite Ware still managing to wreak havoc across the court, the Taipans were able to push into reply mode for the second quarter and close the Kings’ lead 51-50.

But scrappy play from both sides in the third quarter had the Kings land back into the driver’s seat heading into the final dance with a lead of 70-64.

In a final quarter that felt more like a play-offs game than a season opener, Ware simply wasn’t able to finish the game off with the Kings’ signature move of a final-second bucket with the Taipans coming away with the win.

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Czechs wave empty beer mugs in COVID-19 lockdown protest


Hundreds of protesters gathered in Prague, Czech Republic on Sunday with empty beer glasses to rally against the closing of pubs and restaurants in the country.

The Czech Republic re-imposed COVID-19 measures ahead of Christmas due to a surge in infections, which included the closing of bars, restaurants and hotels.

The demonstrators, many of whom work in the hospitality industry, lit candles inside beer glasses and set them in a line stretching about a kilometre (0.62 miles) from the city centre to government buildings.

Bars and restaurants were allowed to reopen on December 3 as infection rates were on the decline, but they were forced to shut their doors again on December 27 when cases started to rise again.

Prime Minister Andrej Babis has called the decision frustrating but necessary.

He said the government will compensate the businesses for their losses.

All shops, except those selling essential goods such as food and medicine, have also been ordered to close.



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UK high streets empty on Boxing Day as shoppers stay at home


The UK’s high streets were largely deserted on Boxing Day, with shopper numbers down more than 60% on last year as people remained at home amid tighter coronavirus restrictions.

Data from the retail consultancy Springboard showed footfall on high streets, in retail parks and shopping centres on Boxing Day collapsed by nearly 76% in areas with tier 4 restrictions, where all non-essential shops selling things such as clothes, toys, furniture and electrical items were shut. Even in tiers 2 and 3, where all shops were allowed to open, footfall was down by 33.1% and 38.5% respectively, as many people opted to stay home.

The UK’s high streets posted a 63.3% fall in shopping numbers compared with Boxing Day 2019; shopping centres were down 65.4%, and retail parks recorded a 45% decline. Marks & Spencer and John Lewis decided to remain closed on Boxing Day this year.

The tougher coronavirus restrictions have compounded what has been a disastrous year for shops. Even the larger retailers are struggling; for example, the department-store chain Debenhams and the Arcadia Group, which owns brands such as Topshop, Burton, Evans and Dorothy Perkins, have called in administrators.

Large parts of England, comprising 43% of the population, are under strict tier 4 restrictions, while Scotland and Northern Ireland imposed fresh lockdowns on Boxing Day and Wales reintroduced restrictions that had been eased for Christmas Day.

Regional cities suffered a 72.2% fall in shopper numbers, while central London posted an 84.1% drop on Boxing Day, Springboard found. This compares with declines of 40.2% in coastal towns and 52.2% in market towns, showing people prefer to shop local.

Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard, said: “Boxing Day has been attracting less retail footfall each year in five of the past seven years, as shoppers turn online to grab the best bargains.

“Interestingly, Boxing Day has been evolving into more of a leisure-based day, with shoppers starting their trips later on in the day, and combining shopping trips with eating out and catching up with family and friends. The closure of hospitality in tier 3 and above means shoppers have remained at home and footfall has declined significantly.”





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German club sells 72,000 tickets for game in empty stadium


German third-tier soccer club Dynamo Dresden says it sold more than 72,000 tickets for a game played in an empty stadium with no fans.

Former East German champion Dynamo offered fans the “ghost tickets” – named for the German habit of dubbing empty-stadium matches “ghost games” – for €5 as a way to raise funds for the club during the coronavirus pandemic. Fans could receive a commemorative ticket to keep.

Dynamo’s Philipp Hosiner (left) in action against Darmstadt’s Lars Lukas Mai.Credit:AP

The total of 72,112 tickets sold for the German Cup game against Darmstadt was more than double the capacity of Dresden’s stadium. Only two games in the club’s history, both away games, had more people in attendance, Dresden said.

Dresden lost the game 3-0 to Darmstadt, who play a division above Dynamo in the league.

German clubs have pioneered innovative fundraising ideas after the pandemic hurt teams’ incomes.

When German soccer shut down in the spring, third-tier club Uerdingen sold “virtual tickets” for a fictional game. Top-division side Borussia Monchengladbach offered fans the chance to have their photos printed onto cardboard cutouts for home games, an idea quickly copied by sports teams around the world.

AP



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Empty seats, delivered feasts as virus changes Thanksgiving


Vivian Zayas can’t keep herself from scrolling through photos of last Thanksgiving, when her mother stood at the stove to make a big pot of rice and beans and then took a seat at the edge of the table.

That was before anyone had heard of COVID-19 and before it claimed the retired seamstress. Ana Martinez died at 78 on April 1 while recovering at a nursing home from a knee replacement.

The family is having their traditional meal of turkey, yams, green beans and rice and beans — but Zayas is removing a seat from the table at her home in Deer Park, New York, this year and putting her mother’s walker in its place as a reminder of the loss.

“It’s a painful Thanksgiving. You don’t even know, should you celebrate?” asked Zayas. “It’s a lonely time.”

Americans are marking the Thanksgiving holiday Thursday amid an unrelenting pandemic that has claimed the lives of more than a quarter of a million people in the United States.

Turkey and pies will still come out ovens, football will still be on TV, families will still give thanks and have lively conversations about politics. But this holiday has been utterly altered after months filled with sorrows and hardships: Many feasts are weighed down by the loss of loved ones; others have been canceled or scaled back with the virus surging.

Zoom and FaceTime calls have become a fixture at dinner tables to connect with family members who don’t want to travel. Far fewer volunteers are helping at soup kitchens or community centers. A Utah health department has been delivering boxes of food to residents who are infected with the virus and can’t go to the store. A New York nursing home is offering drive-up visits for families of residents struggling with celebrating the holiday alone.

“The holidays make it a little harder,” said Harriet Krakowsky, an 85-year-old resident of the Hebrew Home at Riverdale in New York who misses the big Thanksgiving celebrations of years past and has lost neighbors and friends to the virus. “I cry, but I get over it. We have to go on.”

On any normal Thanksgiving Day, Kara McKlemurry and her husband would drive from their Clearwater, Florida, home to one of two places: his family’s home in another part of the state or her family’s house in Alabama. This year, McKlemurry informed her family there would be no visits because of the pandemic. And when her in-laws offered to stop by, the couple said no.

She and her husband didn’t want to risk infecting anyone or getting the virus themselves.

Not everyone followed McKlemurry’s example. Millions of Americans bought tickets to fly somewhere for the holiday, crowding airports despite pleas from officials to avoid travel and gatherings.

Still, McKlemurry, 27, wanted to do something unique to mark this unusual holiday — something to let everyone know that she and her husband still feel blessed this year.

So, a week before Thanksgiving, armed with colored pens and stickers of owls with scarves, she hand wrote notes of gratitude to every member of the family.

“We’re so grateful to have you in our lives,” she wrote on a card with a cartoon fox, “even if we can’t actually be together this year for the holidays.”

In the nation’s capital, the convention center is empty unlike in previous years, when volunteers have worked together to serve a meal to about 5,000 people. In the era of social distancing, the sponsored event had to be reimagined.

Ahead of the holiday, organizers delivered to 20 nonprofits 5,000 gift bags, each with winter clothing accessories, hand sanitizer and a mask, and 5,000 boxes that included a turkey sandwich with condiments, a side potato salad, a cookie and utensils.

From start to finish, Thanksgiving is different this year for Jessica Franz, a nurse who works the graveyard shift at Olathe Medical Center, in a Kansas City suburb.

For one, Franz, 39, is celebrating without her mother-in-law, Elaine Franz, who died of the coronavirus on Nov. 10, just one day before her 78th birthday. In previous years, her mother-in-law, who was Mennonite, would lay out a spread for her children and grandchildren. At Franz’s work, in a typical year, co-workers would bring food for a potluck.

None of that is happening this year.

The family is shifting the festivities to Zoom and FaceTime. It’s been hard for her daughters — ages, 2, 8 and 11. Her middle daughter was exposed to the coronavirus at school and is quarantined until Dec. 3, and her oldest daughter is struggling with the concept of a scaled-back holiday.

“We had a good conversation that was, ‘This year may be different, and that’s OK. It is one year. If things are different this year and that means we get to see all the rest of our family next year, it is OK,’” said Franz, who has personally cared for patients dying of coronavirus.

The Thanksgiving gathering at David Forsyth’s home in Southern California, meanwhile, comes with a uniquely 2020 feel: rapid virus tests at the door to decide who gets inside.

The kit costs about $1,000 for 20 tests, each of which involve pricking a finger and putting a drop of blood on a tray. Ten minutes later the results either show someone is negative, has antibodies or is positive.

Normally, about 15 to 20 people attend the family’s Thanksgiving dinner in Channel Islands Harbor. But this year, it will only be eight of them: Forsyth, his wife, her four adult sons and the partners of two of them.

His wife started cooking Tuesday. She’s planning a cold cucumber soup for a starter and bunch of appetizers for the early afternoon meal. The sons are bringing side dishes. Turkey and the fixings are the main course. Champagne may be cracked.

Forsyth hasn’t seen his family much during the pandemic but wanted to save the holiday.

“People are trying to live a normal life,” he said. “And, you know, with the second wave coming now, it’s not a bad idea to be prepared.”

Kerry Osaki longs to see his now-grown children, without masks, and hug them. But instead he and his wife are celebrating just the two of them after their traditions were upended.

Osaki’s 93-year-old mother, Rose, who lived with the couple in Orange County in California, died from the virus after all three got sick.

With his mother gone, Osaki, 67, and his cousin decided to pass on the family’s annual Thanksgiving get-together. His wife, Lena Adame, typically spent the holiday cooking a spread of turkey and stuffing with her relatives — but some had seen virus cases at their workplaces, so the couple decided to skip that, too.

“It’s just been a long, rough and sometimes sad year,” he said.

In Ogden, Utah, Evelyn Maysonet stepped out of her home Tuesday morning to find boxes overflowing with canned goods, desserts and a turkey. She has been isolating with her husband and son since all three tested positive for COVID-19.

None of them has been able to leave to buy groceries, so they were thrilled to receive the health department’s delivery — and the chance to cherish the things that matter most.

“As long as you have a life and you’re still alive, just make the best of it with you and your family,” Maysonet said.

___

Associated Press writers Tamara Lush, Jennifer Sinco Kelleher, Sophia Eppolito and Amy Taxin contributed to this report.



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Toilet paper limits, empty shelves are back as COVID-19 surges in US


NEW YORK: Looking for toilet paper? Good luck.

A surge of new COVID-19 cases in the US is sending people back to stores to stockpile again, leaving shelves bare and forcing retailers to put limits on purchases.

Walmart said Tuesday (Nov 17) it’s having trouble keeping up with demand for cleaning supplies in some stores. Supermarket chains Kroger and Publix are limiting how much toilet paper and paper towels shoppers can buy after demand spiked recently. And Amazon is sold out of most disinfectant wipes and paper towels.

A similar scene played out back in March, when the pandemic first hit and people hunkered down in their homes.

READ: Pfizer ends COVID-19 trial with 95% success rate, paving way for a shot this year


A woman buys toilet paper at a market in Mount Lebanon in Pennsylvania on Nov 17, 2020. (Photo: AP/Gene J Puskar)

But Geoff Freeman, president and CEO of the Consumer Brands Association, formerly the Grocery Manufacturers Association, said he doesn’t expect things to be as bad this go-around since lockdowns are being handled on a regional basis and everyone is better prepared.

“A more informed consumer combined with a more informed manufacturer and a more informed retailer should provide all of us with a greater sense of ease and ensure we can meet this growing demand,” Freeman said.

The biggest supply issue seems to be paper products: 21 per cent of shelves that stock paper towels and toilet paper are empty, the highest level in at least a month, according to market research company IRI.

READ: Lockdown 2.0: Food companies overhauled production to put more toilet paper, pasta sauce in stores

Virus-Outbreak Retail Shortages

Paper products are in short supply on the shelves of a Pittsburgh market on Nov 17, 2020. (Photo: AP/Gene J Puskar)

Cleaning supplies have remained level at 16 per cent. Before the pandemic, 5 per cent to 7 per cent of consumer goods were typically out of stock, IRI said.

Contributing to the problem is the fact that roughly 10 per cent of the workforce at manufacturing plants where the products are made are calling out sick, mainly because they’ve been in contact with others who were tested positive to COVID-19, Freeman said.

Kelly Anderson of Colorado Springs, Colorado, said she needs more supplies now that in-person school in her area was canceled earlier this month and her two children are at home more. She’s noticed others are stocking up, too: Safeway and Walmart were nearly wiped out of bottled water and disinfectant wipes during a recent visit, both of which had been easy to find since the summer.

READ: Germans start ‘hamstering’ toilet paper again as COVID-19 cases surge

Virus-Outbreak Retail Shortages

A notice is seen on a supermarket shelf in the United States. (Photo: AP)

It’s also been harder to find a time slot to get her groceries delivered. Anderson says she’s had to wait as many as two days instead of same-day delivery. But that’s still not as bad as earlier this year

“March seems like a million years ago, but I do remember freaking out,” she said. “I couldn’t get groceries delivered for a week.”

Walmart said while supplies are stressed in some areas, it thinks it will be able to handle any stockpiling now than earlier this year. Amazon said its working with manufacturers to get items such as disinfecting wipes, paper towels and hand sanitizer in stock.



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Empty offices prompt fears workers won’t return


Any change in commuters’ behaviour or company policies around employees working from home will have a significant impact.

In a bid to rescue its ailing economy, Melbourne Council met with the city’s top 10 employers last month and asked each for a “CEO pledge” – that they will return their workers to city offices.

Companies in Sydney held back because they saw what was going on in Melbourne.

Richard Fennell, JLL

The companies – ANZ, Optus, PwC and NBN Co among others – agreed to target getting 70 per cent of their workforces back into the city once the Andrews government lifts work-from-home restrictions.

“Without intervention, there is a risk that office worker numbers in Melbourne will remain low for an extended period of time,” the council said.

Businesses across the spectrum are “uncertain about what they’re going to do,” said Savills Australia’s head of office leasing Mark Rasmussen.

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“A lot are deferring decisions so they can have a better idea of where they’re going to be in 12 months time.”

Two-thirds of Victorians believe office workers should now be able return to COVID safe workplaces, according to recent Roy Morgan polling.

But many won’t be sitting at their city desks until the start of the new year, at the earliest.

Premier Daniel Andrews last week said the government was keen to get people safely back into offices as soon as possible, but the days of workers flocking into the city were over.

“The notion that every worker will be spending every hour where they used to work is gone,” he said.

While Melbourne’s occupancy is the nation’s worst, hollowed out CBDs can be seen around the country. Office occupancy in Brisbane is at 61 per cent and 77 per cent in Perth.

Even now, after months of unrestricted movement, Sydney’s office towers remain less than half full, at around 40 per cent capacity, said Richard Fennell, JLL’s head of property and asset management.

Mr Fennell attributes the slow return of workers in the harbour city to Melbourne’s second wave and its extended lockdown.

“Companies in Sydney held back because they saw what was going on in Melbourne,” he said.

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Both cities will fill up faster once Melbourne’s restrictions are lifted, he predicts. “I think it will go faster simply because organisations are not worried about a second wave scenario.”

Worryingly, Melbourne’s CBD office vacancy – the percentage of buildings without tenants – has already surged to 11.3 per cent, indicating corporations are not renewing leases. Not so long ago, it was just 3.4 per cent.

And another key barometer of the health of the city’s skyline – space available for sublease in prime buildings – has soared to a seven-year high in just three months to September, up by 46 per cent.

But Mr Rasmussen remains optimistic city towers will fill back up.

“By the end of next year, people will realise the value of their office workplaces and we will return to some normality,” he said.

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Homebound workers inject life into suburban malls after downtowns empty out



FILE PHOTO: People walk in the Eaton Centre shopping mall, as the provincial phase 2 of reopening from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions begins in Toronto, Ontario, Canada June 24, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Osorio/File Photo

November 8, 2020

By Nichola Saminather and Victoria Waldersee

TORONTO/LISBON (Reuters) – As the coronavirus pandemic rages and most downtown office employees in many cities work from home at least through year-end, urban retailers’ loss is turning out to be suburban shopping centres’ gain.

For many years, downtown malls have been more profitable, attracting office-goers and tourists congregating in city centres, while suburban malls have been relegated to the role of poor relations.

The coronavirus pandemic is turning that on its head.

“A lot of people who used to commute to downtowns on a daily basis are not anymore,” said Tim Sanderson, head of Canadian retail at real estate services firm JLL in Toronto. “Where are they getting dry cleaning done, picking up dinner? … They’re doing it in their suburban shopping centre.”

Traffic in Canadian suburban malls owned by Cadillac Fairview, the property unit of Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, is now at more than 70% of pre-pandemic levels, while less than half of shoppers have returned to its downtown malls, Executive Vice President of Operations Sal Ianoco told Reuters.

The same story reverberates around the globe.

In the UK, foot traffic was down 40% and 34.6%, respectively, in high streets and shopping centres in mid-October compared with a year earlier, while retail parks saw a decline of only 13.2% from last year, data from analytics firm Springboard showed.

While mall owners with both urban and suburban locations are expected to weather the hit from the pandemic, already-beleaguered retailers in downtown shopping centres face much bleaker prospects.

With the crucial year-end holiday shopping season looming and few shoppers expected to turn up at downtown malls, the surge in permanent store closures and bankruptcies already seen this year is likely to worsen.

Jaap Tonckens, chief financial officer of Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, Europe’s largest property owner, told Reuters the group is “absolutely” seeing local malls do better than downtown counterparts.

German mall operator ECE, which runs nearly 200 shopping centres across Europe, said that while footfall has returned to around 90% of last year’s levels in neighbourhood locations, city centre malls remain at around two-thirds.

“The coronavirus crisis is acting like a fire accelerator to the problems of downtown areas,” including falling rents and rising prices and labour costs, German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said last month.

EERILY QUIET

The return of office staff has been “much slower than we thought,” Toronto Mayor John Tory told Reuters, flagging the continued risk to downtown retail businesses as workers and tourists stay away as the holidays approach.

“Obviously public health has to come first, but anything they can be doing to have people return to work will help the viability of those businesses,” Tory said.

At lunchtime on a Friday before a long weekend, Cadillac Fairview’s landmark Eaton Centre in downtown Toronto, North America’s busiest mall before the pandemic, remained eerily quiet.

A few shoppers wandered through, but at most stores, staff outnumbered customers despite large discounts. Its eateries, which had had lines spilling out their doors before the outbreak, were deserted.

At Fairview and Yorkdale Shopping Centres in the northern Toronto suburb of North York, it was a different story. Despite limited store capacities, weekday shoppers converged on stores from Apple to Zara to Louis Vuitton.

“Because we’re not working in the (downtown Toronto) office … we just stick around the area that’s closer to us,” Tamara, who declined to provide her last name, told Reuters as she shopped in Yorkdale with her husband.

Within suburbs, outlet malls and unenclosed shopping centers – the former luring cost-conscious shoppers in uncertain economic times, and the latter seen as safer amid the coronavirus outbreak – have fared better than enclosed ones.

“Traditionally, open-air malls, especially strip malls but even outlet malls, were the poor cousins of big flagship enclosed malls,” said Karl Littler, senior vice president for public affairs at the Retail Council of Canada.

“But now, open-air malls are doing better than enclosed malls,” he said.

Ed Sonshine, chief executive of Riocan REIT <REI_u.TO>, Canada’s second-largest property trust, said the company’s suburban shopping centres – all unenclosed and most anchored by essential businesses like grocery stores – are, in many cases, doing even better than before the pandemic.

Yorkdale shoppers Tamara and her husband Jason will visit the mall at least once to “see what the mayhem is,” they said.

“But if I see a line up and have to wait to get into the store, I’ll turn around and go back and buy online,” she said.

(Reporting by Nichola Saminather in Toronto and Victoria Waldersee in Lisbon; Additional reporting by Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles; Editing by Denny Thomas and Matthew Lewis)





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