Bold ideas to bring life back to area

CHARLIE GATES CHARLIE.GATES@PRESS.CO.NZ
Last updated 05:00 01/12/2012

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Bold proposals for the regeneration of New Brighton include a slow road through the mall, extending Oram Ave, moving the supermarket and creating an entertainment hub.

The draft master plan has been welcomed by residents and business owners as a way to revitalise the seaside suburb.

More than a dozen shops have been demolished or shuttered in New Brighton mall since the Canterbury earthquakes.

However, residents and business owners are keen to regenerate the area.

The Christchurch City Council master plan aims to consolidate retail space in the centre, improve pedestrian and cycle links and create a "fun, creative and lively" place.

The community board will consider the master plan on Monday.

If the plan is later approved by city councillors, it will go out for public consultation.

Economic analysis conducted for the master plan states there are 11 hectares of retail space in New Brighton but the area can support only three or four hectares. The excess retail space is left over from a period between 1946 and the 1980s when New Brighton was the only place in the country where shops were allowed to open on Saturdays.

Research by Property Economics said New Brighton had potential but the current situation was "bleak".

The report has found 81 per cent of retail dollars are leaving New Brighton and retail employment has fallen by 23 per cent since 2000.

The report has also found 21 per cent of stores in the New Brighton centre are vacant.

"This is one of the highest vacancy percentages [we have] come across in the last 10 years of undertaking retail centre audits around the country," the report says.

The master plan proposes concentrating retail space at the seafront end of the mall and rezoning the western end of the centre for residential development.

The plan says extending Oram Ave to Hawke St will create shelter from the easterly wind and allow the temporary closure of Marine Pde for events.

Moving the Countdown supermarket to the west would require further discussion, "with potential operators to determine the feasibility of this option".

The proposed entertainment hub could include a bowling alley or a cinema but would "require private investment and the potential amalgamation of land".

The plan also includes community initiatives like a stronger business assocation, a graffiti action plan, a New Brighton case manager and more council services based in the library.

It could take between three and 15 years to fully implement all ideas.

Rebecca May, of community group Renew Brighton, said the plans were exciting.

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"I think the plan opens all sorts of possibilities for New Brighton and it is really good that we have got direction now," she said. "[The] council really listened and picked up on the themes of what people want to see."

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker said in a foreword to the master plan he hoped to transform New Brighton into a "superb destination".

"It is fair to say this suburban centre has, over the years, experienced decline, and a number of well-intentioned overhauls and plans for revitalisation haven't quite lived up to expectations."

A spokeswoman for Countdown supermarkets said it was too early to comment on the master plan.

- The Press

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