EDITORIAL: Thinking outside the box needed when it comes to regional CBDs
Source: Marlborough Express, 28 July 2016
EDITORIAL: What is the most important thing? He tangata, he tangata … it is the people.
Our town planners and city leaders generally get that – but urban design rarely reflects this imperative.
Most of our regional central business districts are lacking in zing – more like day-after beer dregs than freshly popped bubbly. Whatever the appetite for a sparkling inner city makeover, tilt-slab pragmatism and other commercial realities, car-centricity and councillor division join existing layout as powerful counters.
One common challenge for regional CBDs is pressure from developments on the fringe. Cheaper land, malls, supermarkets and big box developments, all offering mass parking, threaten many traditional retail hearts.
How, then, to ensure city or town centres reclaim and retain their relevance?
Blenheim Business Association chairman Tim Thomas put it succinctly last year in a call to councillors to give the town's centre a makeover.
"This is not just about getting people into the town to shop, it's about getting people in to socialise."
Wellington's waterfront is a prime example of the pulling power of creativity and putting people first.
One reason for Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt's civic longevity is the perception he has made things happen – including main street revitalisation.
An early response to the Christchurch earthquakes was the Re:Start Mall's speedy development, which brought heart and vitality to a devastated community.
In Nelson, plans have emerged for a similar shipping container-based people-magnet through an inner city block – combining art, small-scale innovative retail, al-fresco dining, zany design and affordable leases.
New York-based Nelson businessman, Galen King, founder of the Bridge Street Collective, spearheads the project. His new-style business model was based on collaboration rather than a traditional competitive focus – a philosophy he will continue in the new development.
With local body elections just round the corner, now is the time for innovative candidates willing to put the needs of their communities first.
Equally needed are administrations that encourage progressive private developers and visionary thinkers – those who can turn the drab and mundane into cool and funky focal points, benefiting all.
What's the most important thing? It is the people. He tangata, he tangata.
- The Marlborough Express