Focus on cycling not stadium, expert says

TINA LAW
Last updated 08:42 16/10/2014
Christchurch convention centre
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ARTIST'S IMPRESSION: Christchurch town planners have been urged not to place too much emphasis on expensive, outdated projects like this proposed convention centre.

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Christchurch's city planners need to put less emphasis on a convention centre and stadium and focus more on encouraging residents to walk and cycle, an international expert says.

Brent Toderian, who was Vancouver's chief planner for six years and oversaw all development, design and architecture in the Canadian city, said building convention centres and sports facilities were popular in the 1990s but had not been successful and in many cases were complete failures.

''They are expensive and do not have a good return on investments,'' he said.

''People get distracted by these big silver bullets that are not silver bullets.''

That did not mean convention centres and sports facilities could not be successful, but it was crucial they be integrated into the surrounding area and include cafes and shops.

A convention centre could only benefit the city if people were encouraged to explore and spend time and money in surrounding streets.

A $284 million convention centre and $290m sports stadium have been identified as central Christchurch anchor projects.

Toderian was impressed with Christchurch's temporary spaces and believes many of them, including the Re:Start Mall, should remain permanently.

''Not only does it work, it's essentially now a piece of heritage. It's the most successful thing you did to reconnect the public to the city.''

If Re:Start had to move from its existing location, it should be put somewhere nearby, he said.

He loved the giant green chairs on Gloucester St.

''A lot of cities spend a lot of time and money on something that is not nearly as wonderful as that little piece of intervention.''

Toderian believed cities that have not had an earthquake could learn from how Christchurch has filled in the gaps.

''Most cities have gaps but most think there is not much they can do with it. Christchurch has shown what you can do with gaps.''

The small creative arts projects and good public spaces were more the catalyst for a successful future than a convention centre, he said, but more needed to be done to integrate cycling, walking and public transport.

''You can't take the city now and expect people to walk and bike, you have to design a different city.''

Toderian believed the city was making progress toward becoming more friendly for walkers and bikers, but the city could ''go further, faster''.

People living centrally was another key to the success of a city, he said.

''The more people you have that can walk to work, the less you have to worry about transport and parking.''

He was worried Christchurch was going overboard on parking in the central city when the need for parking in other cities across the world was falling.

''Nobody ever came to a central city because there is parking there.''

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