Library plan excites council

Market St, Blenheim
Market St, Blenheim

The revitalising of the central business districts of Blenheim and Picton, including a possible move of the Blenheim library to a site near the Taylor River, could be the defining project of this term of council, Marlborough Mayor Alistair Sowman says.

An all-day council meeting yesterday set the council's draft budget and annual plan, and councillors endorsed a proposal by Mr Sowman to upgrade the central business districts of Blenheim and Picton as part of that.

That recommendation included options that would see the council buying buildings for future library and community buildings.

Mr Sowman suggested earlier this week that alternative sites for a new library in Blenheim should be looked at, proposing a site on land in High and Wynen streets.

It had been thought the library would move from its site on Arthur St across the road to the FloorPride Marlborough Civic Theatre site, but Mr Sowman said people needed to think about whether that was still the best site for the library.

A report to yesterday's council meeting said the theatre site could be redeveloped and sold for commercial purposes. It already had two commercial tenants and the council has been approached by a non-retail organisation interested in another development on the site.

The report suggested that selling the Queen St site could offset the cost of building a library and community centre nearer the river. Analysis of properties in High and Wynen streets and the river precinct showed there were redevelopment opportunities.

"Council could consider the viability of this location for a future library and community centre."

Mr Sowman told councillors it was important to look at the central business district revitalisation project as about more than just the library.

It was about vibrancy and vitality of the entire central business district, he said.

"It is the pivotal issue for this term . . . Does council take the lead?"

Councillors were positive about the proposal to boost the central business districts but warned that the community would have to agree with the possible changes.

Councillor Jamie Arbuckle said he was really positive about the proposal.

The council had opportunities to take some civic buildings down to the river, he said, and he was willing to look at selling council-owned buildings to seize that opportunity.

"We've got to take the community with us. It might be a surprise to some people."

Mr Arbuckle said the council would be consulting on it, and there were no fixed ideas at the moment.

"But it's a good idea to get that linkage to the river."

Councillor Jessica Bagge said she was 100 per cent in support.

"It's the most exciting thing in that plan, I think."

The council should take the best bits from the 2009 Urbanism Plus town centre plan, she said, and do the work.

"Get some leadership going . . . Get people inspired and get on and do it."

Councillor Brian Dawson said the building could be more than just a library.

Council could sell some of its commercial buildings to fund the project, he said.

Councillor Peter Jerram encouraged councillors to look at the rates of return on council assets before selling them.

Councillor Laressa Shenfield said the project was exciting, but the council needed to have the community with it and buying into the project.

The Marlborough Express