New Esk St likely by year-end

23:23, Apr 06 2014

The heart of the city should have a facelift by the end of the year.

The inner-city upgrade group has decided to start work on the multimillion-dollar CBD upgrade project, but will begin with part of precinct one and precinct two first.

The controversial upgrade project has been tainted by a perceived lack of consultation, then hampered by elections just as the upgrade was pushed through the council.

But, by the end of the year, a new Esk St could be revealed.

Inner-city upgrade boss Graham Sycamore said the design plans for the first stages could be completed by the end of this month and would be put out for consultation in May.

He believed that the community would be positive about the Esk St upgrade, because it was the changes to Dee St and Tay St that had really rankled. That stage would not be proceeding in the near future, he said. However, there would be changes to Wood St, where bus and campervan parking areas would be marked out.


Those changes come with a - tag of $827,000 for Esk St and $14,000 for the Wood St parking.

Sycamore said the Esk St upgrade would cause minimal disruption, and could be done within weeks.

Speaking at the inner-city working group meeting this week, consultant Craig Pocock, who compiled the concept plan, agreed with Sycamore.

The concept plan shows a pocket park just outside the arcades, with sheltered seating and raised grass area, even a staged area, improved lighting and new street art.

Several car parks could be lost but that issue should be sorted out in the next round of talks.

The phases could be put out for consultation, and then completed by November, in time for the Christmas shopping period.

Esk St should be somewhere people wanted to gather and meet, he said.

"The main street should be like a marae."

But committee member John Green, from H&J Smith, said the street was still plagued by not having any shops along half its south side.

The wind tunnel beside The Southland Times was also an issue, he said.

"The Southland Times, that building would be of interest to this project."

Committee member Nick Hamlin agreed.

"If that building was to go, you would actually create a usable space out there."

Sycamore said the council had looked at the possibility of demolishing The Times' building, but the cost was too great.

He agreed it was an important part to the upgrade but thought it unlikely the council would revisit the option of acquiring it.

Committee member Richard Innes said the council needed to do something to spur investors. That way, shops would be filled and more retailers attracted to the street, and that would naturally improve it, he said. 


CBD upgrade so far

The inner-city upgrade has been in the pipeline for about three years, with a committee of business leaders and stakeholders set up to steer the design and upgrade process.

The master plan for the upgrade was released to the public last year.

That plan detailed 11 precincts of development, showing how the city centre could be revitalised, making it family-oriented, and breathing life and amenity into the area.

The plans came at a price, debated by councillors at the August council meeting.

Despite vigorous debate, the council voted in favour of the $12.2 million upgrade.

Harsh public feedback caused the mayor to put the brakes on the project, cautioning that it should be done slowly. Now, the council is doing the upgrade stage by stage, and will put each part out for consultation.

The Esk St upgrade will be the first stage of the 11.


The Southland Times