Better pedestrian access wanted for Papanui Rd

TAMLYN STEWART
Last updated 09:18 17/06/2013
Brian Burke
DEAN KOZANIC/Fairfax NZ

DIVIDED BY ROAD: Brian Burke, chairman of the Papanui Village Business Association, which is aiming to get better pedestrian access aross Papanui Rd.

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Papanui is a part of Christchurch that has seen businesses move in, not out, after the earthquakes. Now those firms are uniting to create a new village identity.

In March 2012, following an influx of businesses fleeing the central city, the Papanui Village Business Association was formed with the idea of capitalising on the new growth and commercial activity in the area.

But while Papanui has a large retail and commercial centre it has "a distinct lack of a central community or village feel", according to a recent Christchurch City Council Community Profile report.

That was due to distinct and varied groups of people scattered throughout the zone and a retail or commercial centre without a strong focal or gathering point.

Many buildings had been demolished and some sections were empty and unattractive, the report found.

Brian Burke, Papanui Business Association chairman and partner at Harmans Lawyers, said the association was working to make the area more attractive, and more pedestrian-friendly.

Due to the influx of businesses there was an opportunity for businesses to pull together and create a strong village identity.

Papanui was looking "a bit shabby" after the earthquakes and the association wanted to spruce it up, using cast-iron planter boxes, welcome banners and park benches.

The association aimed to have those in place by year-end, but the measures required council permission and a surprisingly large amount of money. Planter boxes alone could cost $40,000.

The association was looking at fundraising options. It wants to work with the council to improve pedestrian access across Papanui Rd to attract more shoppers, but "it has been hard to pin them down".

Long-term, the association hopes to install a feature clock in the memorial park on the corner of Papanui Rd and Horner St to create a focal point for the community and to mark the gateway to the precinct.

It plans to work with Papanui RSA, Papanui Rotary and the Shirley/Papanui Community Board on some of the projects.

There were about 100 businesses in the precinct around the intersection of Papanui, Harewood and Main North roads, including more than 15 businesses which had moved there since the earthquakes.

Westenra Jewellers owner Gerald Westenra moved to Papanui Rd shortly after he lost his City Mall premises in the February 2011 quake.

His store was busier now than before February 2011, with more foot traffic than he had expected.

"I nabbed this spot a couple of weeks after the earthquake. There were four empty shops in my block. They're all full now."

In the past, Papanui had been a little bit "neglected".

"But the quake changed that and vacant spaces got repopulated," Westenra said.

But he wanted to see better pedestrian access across Papanui Rd to allow customers to go from one business to another.

"People are constantly crossing the road. I'm waiting for the day someone gets skittled."

It was like having "a big fence across the middle of the road" separating two strips of businesses.

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Before the quakes Papanui may have been a bit "dysfunctional" because of the lack of businesses in the area.

"That community feeling has improved. We have almost a full house now," Westenra said.

"People always complain with parking but it is much easier than in the central city. It is easier to drop in."

Petticoat Lane Costume Hire owner Gabrielle Heath said since the earthquakes a lot of new businesses had come into the area, including start-ups and others which had moved from the central city, compared to before earthquakes.

"But with the quakes all the leases have filled up and there is a whole new energy again."

BY THE NUMBERS

20 members of the Papanui Business Association

100 businesses in the precinct

9000 estimated residents in the suburb

$14,000 funding from the Prime Minister's fund

$3000 funding from Christchurch City Council's Capital Endowment Fund

$40,000 estimated possible cost of 20 cast-iron planter boxes to beautify the area

- © Fairfax NZ News

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