Bridge St blues cop a caning

KATE DAVIDSON
Last updated 13:00 09/07/2014
Lauren Lewis
MARION VAN DIJK/Fairfax NZ
OFF-COLOUR: Lauren Lewis from Cardells hairdressers says she isn't a fan of the blue stripes.

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The verdict is out and the Bridge St blue stripes have failed to win the praise of the public, but businesses still want the Nelson council to continue upgrading the street.

The central Nelson street has been getting a makeover with a $214,000 price tag paid for by Nelson City Council.

This covered the design, supervision and enhancements to the street lighting, spot lighting and bud lighting of trees as well as seating planters, bike stands and blue stripes painted along the footpath.

The new look was unveiled last week. with the design work being carried out by Nelson landscape architect firm Canopy aiming to create a safer area and to brighten up the street - the blue lines were part of this, reflecting the Tasman Sea and Nelson's coastal location.

But, rather than winning praise the blue lines painted along the footpath have attracted heavy online criticism.

A Nelson Mail poll found 86.9 per cent of 657 voters thought the blue lines were pointless, 5.8 per cent said they were pretty, and 7.3 per cent did not know.

It was hard to find one positive comment out of the 114 posted on Facebook, with many complaining about it being a waste of ratepayer money when there were more demanding needs.

A few voices supported the design, with one young commenter saying it was good to see something "edgy" happening in the city, and another woman said it brightened up a "dark and seedy" part of town.

Bridge St businesses the Nelson Mail spoke to supported improving the street, with most in favour of the planter boxes, seats, and bike stands, but few favoured the stripes.

Manager of Bridge Street Collective cafe Mandy Preston said she liked the contemporary improvements and the design had got people talking.

"I think Bridge St is looking better than Hardy St now," but the consensus from customers on the stripes was negative, she said.

Lauren Lewis, from Cardells hairdressers, hated the blue stripes as they "were so far off the mark" and a poor use of money.

The planter boxes were appreciated, but she wanted more trees along the street, with it being transformed into well-lit open area attractive to young professionals.

Rockshop employees said there were a number of jokes going around about the stripes - were they an obstacle course for Saturday night drunks or giving direction for where to vomit?

They said there had been little consultation by the council about why they were doing the design and how it fitted into the greater vision for Bridge St.

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The council plans to spend another $200,000 to improve the crossing points at the junction of Bridge and Alma streets.

City councillors who approved the design are divided on the Bridge St development.

Brian McGurk said the improvements were "underwhelming" as he had expected more for the amount being spent.

He said clutter encroaching on the footpath outside businesses needed to go, Alma Lane should be turned into a pedestrian walkway only, and buildings needed to be brightened and opened up, with more street lighting and the footpath evened out.

McGurk said people had been asking for the street to be improved and for a more vibrant city centre, but more could be done to turn the "fairly bleak" section between Collingwood St to Trafalgar St into a nicer area.

Councillor Gaile Noonan said she was called away when plans were being decided on and only saw them briefly, but she was concerned about the upkeep, especially the white seats.

She said these were already looking grubby and the blue lines confused her, but she had talked to young people who liked the design and were positive about the street's development.

Councillor Matt Lawrey is right behind the new look..

"It's a step up on what was there before. That part of Bridge St had been reduced to a dingy and depressing part of town by bars and other businesses that seem obsessed with painting everything black. People told us they wanted us to brighten up the area and that's what we've done," he said.

He said it might not be to everyone's flavour, but he enjoyed seeing people sitting and chatting on the "funky new seating and using the brilliant new bike stands" and he did not think anyone would argue against the planters being a good addition.

He called for more street art and groovy lights.

"I say that running a city is a tricky business and if we only ever spent money on drains and roads, it would be a tragically boring place. I would also like to add that the wailing and gnashing of teeth that this has produced in some quarters suggest some Nelsonians really need to try to focus a little more on the good things in life and spend less time online."

- The Nelson Mail

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