Inner-city challenges ahead

Last updated 14:19 03/07/2014

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Invercargill architect Bob Simpson calls for a substantial rethink of the inner-city upgrade.

Hooray. Inner-city improvements are still on the Invercargill City Council's agenda. However, despite many pictures in the paper by landscape architect Craig Pocock and support from the ICC engineers, their proposals make little sense to me.

The pictures show sunny days while the reality is often different.

The current consultation process has been flawed. Asking the general public what they want is not the way to get good answers. I recommend competent architects, town planners and designers be asked to provide a range of options for the inner-city upgrade. Then the pros and cons of these options can be debated.

Councillor Graham Sycamore has been given a hospital pass to front this work. It is unwise to start any project without having an agreed ultimate goal.

The current city council proposal is to install a new water main and upgrade the paving in Esk St, before decisions are made about sites for other facilities and the controversial ideas of major roading changes to Dee, Tay, Esk and Don streets.

The timetable to start the construction work in Esk St later this year, with the promise of having the work complete in mid- November, is a recipe for disaster. For a range of reasons the deadline is likely to be missed and Esk St will be a shambles during the important Christmas shopping period.

There is no doubt the heart of our city is dying.

Why?

Because of poor planning decisions, the appeal to businesses of new buildings with large sites and free parking outside the city centre and the growth of internet shopping.

Consequently, the floor area required for inner-city retail and businesses is likely to decline further.

We need an inner-city which attracts people to shop and to socialise. This requires good retail and business premises, a good bus service, good parking and pleasant surroundings.

To improve our inner-city we need to:

Provide a comprehensive brief of requirements - clearly define the problems or challenges to be solved.

Determine a realistic policy for the buildings at risk during earthquakes.

Engage a team of competent designers and associated professionals to prepare options.

Allow reasonable time frames for each stage of the design and construction work.

Allow adequate consultation on the design options in a shop and at public meetings where people be involved in testing the proposals by informed debate.

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We need to face some challenges, such as the question of how we attract more people into the inner city.

There is a significant budget for the Museum and Art Gallery expansion. With part of this budget the council could establish exhibition spaces and galleries in the inner city, where we could enjoy travelling exhibitions and the work of local artists and the collections from Anderson Park and Southland Museum and Art Gallery. Dunedin and Gore have successful central galleries.

Invercargill needs a good quality inner-city hotel. If the Invercargill Licensing Trust will not build a hotel soon, I think other parties should be invited to solve this challenge. One option is to build a multi-storey building adjoining the existing Kelvin Hotel, which includes more bedrooms and facilities and on-site car parking.

Visitors need an inner-city information centre which is easy to find and has good parking for campervans, cars and buses.

People need convenient bus stops and more car parking which can be paid for on departure.

Sheltered shopping could be improved in the arcades from Tay St to Don St and we should plan for an arcade from Don to Spey streets, possibly through the Todd's site.

We need good toilet facilities in the centre of the shopping area. We do not need pocket parks in Esk St (and in South City) adjacent to noisy, smelly vehicles. Invercargill has great parks around the inner city which we can enjoy. We need clear signs to help people find our significant amenities and toilets.

Councillors, please push the pause button and commission a cost effective, well-designed, inner- city upgrade.

Bop Simpson was a foundation member of the Vibrant Invercargill Board and the inner-city steering committee when the last inner-city upgrade was designed by a team of architects, town planners and other professionals, in the mid-1990s.

- The Southland Times

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