DOWN SHE GOES
By SALLY GORDON
AS a 25-tonne excavator clawed its way through the burnt wreckage of what used to be Cafe Boulevarde yesterday, its former owner, Dale James, vowed he would not let redevelopment ruin the unique character of Maclean.
Mr James joined about 40 onlookers on the banks of the Clarence River yesterday morning to watch the demolition of Maclean's blackened heart.
It was a distressing, but necessary, finale to a sleepless week for those affected by one of Maclean's worst disasters. Four businesses and three residential units were destroyed in Monday's horrific blaze, which police believe began in a second-storey residence.
The fire also killed any hopes Mr James had of selling the Cafe Boulevarde building.
Only weeks before the blaze Mr James had accepted an offer of $1.1 million for the property.
Mr James said the sale had not been finalised when the fire struck.
"It became an issue between the insurance companies," Mr James said.
"Now the insurance companies have made up their mind as to where they're going and it has changed the whole thing."
Mr James believes it is his property that holds the key to the future development of the site.
He said the status and re-development of the site depends on the cooperation of the current landholders and neighbours.
"It really depends on how the neighbours feel about it and where their interest lies," he said.
"But if any big developer thinks they're going to change it into something that it wasn't before, I'd be doing what I can to stop that happening ... in respect to something that's inappropriate.
"I have no interest in any major supermarket going in this part of town. This part of town is too important to the community."
Mr James said the River Street precinct had the potential to be developed better than what it was before the fire.
But he said the future success of the site needed positive and energetic input from landowners, the community and the Clarence Valley Council.
"I don't want to walk away from this town and the area now, and I'm hoping my neighbours feel the same way."
Excavation of the fire-ravaged site was expected to be completed by late yesterday.
Dick Swainson from T and T Metal and Asbestos Services said rubble would remain in piles at the rear of the site and would be progressively loaded out over the next few days.