Farmers in CBD deal: Council backs off

TRACY NEAL
Last updated 13:00 13/12/2013

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The city council appears to be stepping back from setting up any exclusive arrangement with Farmers Trading Company, which had its eye on Wakatu Square for a large new store.

Mayor Rachel Reese said today the council was still working with the company on a solution but was of a mindset that it was more appropriate for private enterprise who wanted to develop a commercial contract with Farmers to proceed along those lines.

Confidential discussion on the issue was heldat yesterday's full council meeting, for the purpose of briefing newly elected councillors on the resolution of the previous council, and on discussions between private developers and proposals being drafted.

Ms Reese said before the meeting that the door has been opened for other developers to pitch for a role in advancing the project.

Auckland development company Windermere Holdings approached the council a year ago, wanting to purchase land in Wakatu Square for a 5500sqm Farmers store over two floors. In August last year the council announced the proposal to the public and problems were raised about the deal.

Although most felt that keeping Farmers in the central city was vital, those opposed to the proposal were concerned about the sale price of the land (at about $1 million below market rate), the impact on parkinga, shading of surrounding sites, and the location and overall design of the development.

Local developers asked that any deal over the sale of Wakatu Square be put out to the open market.

Ms Reese said that since then discussions had taken place with a number of local parties but no alternative proposal had yet been put to Farmers.

Gibbons Property and Achilles Properties confirmed they were in the mix of discussions over a possible way ahead for Farmers in the central city. Windermere was standing by its view that failure to secure a central city site large enough for the project meant Farmers was likely to head out of town, most likely to Nelson Junction (the development by Mitre 10 Mega, and World of WearableArt museum and gallery).

Ms Reese said the council was still bound by a timeframe in which to inform Farmers, and it was complying with the resolution of the previous council.

"If you are looking for a large parcel of land in Nelson city there are not many of them, but council owns one and it's not surprising a developer is looking at it."

She said the new council's focus for the central city was broader than finding a suitable site for one large retail development. There was an eagerness to take the Heart of Nelson strategy to its fullest potential and create a city that was well designed with great public spaces.

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"The council has refocused its energies into making a commitment to the central city of Nelson.

"Farmers is part of that but there's much more that the council is going to be focusing on in its relation to the CBD."

- The Nelson Mail

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