CEDA spending report shows Broadway Ave starting to bounce back
It's far from curtains for this Broadway revival, as the transformation of the Palmerston North street from a retail hot spot to a food and entertainment hub starts to bring back the crowds and the cash.
Once the heart of the city's shopping scene, business on Broadway Ave declined as shops abandoned the street after the 2008 economic recession and the loss of Farmers to The Plaza in 2010.
Nearly a decade later and an influx of pubs, cafes and restaurants has that heart beating strongly again.
New figures provided by the Central Economic Development Agency show $9.1 million in spending on Broadway in the first quarter of 2017. That's 14.1 per cent up on 2016, and makes Broadway the city's fastest growing retail area.
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But it wasn't all good news for Palmerston North, with the inner CBD's take of $77m falling 0.3 per cent, and the outer CBD spend dropping by 3.9 per cent.
But the Terrace End area, which included Countdown and Melody's New World, was up 14.1 per cent, and the rest of the city boosted its take 5.3 per cent to $130m.
Mayor Grant Smith said it was great to see Broadway filling up and standing out again.
He said it was getting hard to spot empty store-fronts there now when it seemed like the other way around a couple of years ago.
"We've said for years that Broadway would bounce back. Now it has, and it happened organically, which is very positive," Smith said.
"It's good to think it's not just the Plaza. There's retail and boutique hubs developing their own special character, like George St, and now Broadway and around The Square."
The city council has plans to redevelop the street, including a $300,000 proposal to improve lighting and add "mini-parks" and seating.
Smith said Broadway's building owners were now more engaged with the council's plans, which came under consideration in February.
Smith said Broadway building owners, which included the Catholic Church, Brian Green and Lincoln Charles, were all working towards improving some of the street's older buildings.
"Brew Union is an example of that. A significant, seven-figure sum was spent on improving and [earthquake] strengthening that building, and now the owner has an excellent tenant that complements the other businesses on the street."
Brew Union co-owner Murray Cleghorn was extremely pleased with the brew pub's performance since its March opening.
Broadway's many restaurants, the Regent and Event Cinemas all fitted perfectly with his bar to feed each other customers, he said.
"We're definitely seeing a lot of people come in before and after shows and movies, or having dinner."
Inner cities around New Zealand and the world had become more geared towards food and entertainment than the traditional retail high streets, he said.
"There's been a seismic shift with online shopping, so people are spending more on the experience than on [goods]."
Manawatu residents spent just under $19 million online last quarter. That figure had grown rapidly over the previous year, and was 30.4 per cent more than the same time in 2016.
Wholegrain Organics owner Robert Hall said the large, former retail spaces on Broadway offered the room Wholegrain needed.
"We need a big enough kitchen, room for the distribution centre and the mills.
"[That's why] Broadway was top of the list when we opened the new cafe and shop [in January]. And our [online] customers told us that's where we should be too, because of what's been happening over the last year or two."
Hall said Broadway's recovery was mainly down to two things; the street was close to all the city's evening attractions, and the right businesses had moved in at the right time.