Retailers can't see benefits in Mall revamp

03:38, May 29 2010

Most central Christchurch retailers believe the $14 million City Mall revamp has not attracted more shoppers, a survey shows.

The survey of 249 retailers by the Property Council of New Zealand and Lincoln University revealed doubt over the merits of the revamp and tram-track extension. It found 60 per cent of retailers thought the Christchurch City Council revamp would have no effect on business and a further 16 per cent felt it had had a negative impact.

Retailers also called for more parking spaces in the city centre and free parking to compete with suburban shopping malls.

John McDonagh, senior lecturer in property studies at Lincoln University, said the $14m spent on the revamp was "money down the drain if there are no retailers there".

"A lot of retailers say `we like the look of it, but it doesn't make a difference to our turnover'," he said.

Report co-author Rosalie Heaney said the City Mall revamp "does not appear to provide benefits to the retailers".

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Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker said the message the council got around parking was "very, very clear". He was in early discussions over a "targeted rate for city centre business to fund options like free parking and compete with malls in a more co-ordinated fashion", he said.

Some businesses were having a "tough time", he said. "The way to solve that is to think more creatively. I agree with them and feel the parking issue is one we need to think through."

Nevertheless, Parker defended the City Mall revamp.

"All the businesses on the proposed tram extension are very positive about it. People in other parts of the central city do not see it as an immediate boost, but in our view it's part of extending the whole offering of the central city area," he said.

Central city manager for the Central City Business Association, Paul Lonsdale, said the upgrade may have warded off the worst of the recession for retailers.

"There is no doubt that the City Mall upgrade is a success. Some of the anti-social behaviour problems we used to have have gone. It was well overdue for a refit," he said.

"We have come into some very tough trading times and the revitalisation plan has come into the middle of that. But how bad would it have been if we had not done it?"

Lonsdale estimated there were 3500 parking spaces within Durham, Madras, St Asaph and Armagh streets. Suburban shopping malls usually build one car park for every 100 square metres of retail space. On this formula the city centre would require an extra 10,000 parking spaces.

Evan Harris, director of property management and consultancy for Colliers, said parking was critical for the city centre.

"If you haven't got access and parking your retail will die."

The Press