THE return of two major shopping drawcards can't come soon enough for Hooper Centre businesses struggling to survive lengthy redevelopment works.
Fire damage repairs which began after a blaze at Patton's Discount Meats in November, 2013, have expanded into a massive refurbishment of sections of the centre.
The cost of restoration has quadrupled since initial estimates with managers Hadley Green Investment Group expecting the overall project to cost $8 million.
Built in 1980, the age of the centre has meant that most building services have had to be either replaced or upgraded as a consequence of the fire.
A new main electrical switchboard as well as upgrades to fire services and hydraulics have all added to the cost.
A high-level canopy has been added and elevated awnings will be built to give the centre a modernised appearance.
Traders have been offered some hope with Patton's Discount Meats expected to open by the end of February and a new IGA supermarket set to open before the completion of works in April in place of Coco's Fresh Food Market.
Those who have struggled included Hooper Centre Newsagency owners Gregg Christensen and Julie Adamson.
Mr Christensen said his business had suffered a 60 to 70 per cent drop in turnover without the passing custom generated by the butcher and supermarket.
He expected customers would return once the redevelopment works were completed.
"What has kept us open is fair dinkum good management of this shop," Mr Christensen said.
"We've got to have those two major anchor tenants trading very quickly."
Patton's Discount Meats owner Sharon Patton yesterday said she was hopeful of opening at the end of February or early in March.
"There is a lot of groundwork that has had to be done," Mrs Patton said.
"It is going to be better than what it was."
She hoped to get her staff number up to about 35 and wanted former staff to be among them.
"If we can get them back we will."
Mrs Patton said the store had enjoyed success since opening in 1999.
"We're happy now we can see progress happening."
Hooper Centre director of retail management Carmelo Trimarchi said he understood that the past 14 months had been a very difficult time for the existing tenants.
He said excitement was building about the new look centre.
"Everyone – tenants, management and the owners – are looking forward to completion of the works," Mr Trimarchi said.