Community leaders discuss CBD revival

JAMIE SMALL
Last updated 09:29 31/07/2014

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Nearly 200 people gathered at Wintec yesterday to discuss the future of Hamilton's central business district (CBD).

Mayor Julie Hardaker, environmental planning professor Iain White, business development executive Don Lindberg and Brian Squair of Chow:Hill Architects gave presentations to city centre stakeholders at a meeting organised by Property Council New Zealand.

Rob Dol, president of the Property Council's Hamilton branch, highlighted issues that CBDs around the world have faced due to increased use of cars, the retail boom and changing trends.

He said the latest statistics implied Hamilton's CBD was improving, as commercial vacancy was down, and retail vacancy - while currently low - was expected to rise over the next year.

He said there were challenges to overcome, including the need to attract outside investment, and ageing buildings.

"The CBD is characterised by average-to-low quality office space."

Dol said more research needed to be done on the CBD to provide statistical information to investors and businesses.

Hardaker spoke about demographic trends in the city. She said the number of young people aged 23 to 34 was growing, as was the Pasifika community, while the number of Maori living in the CBD was decreasing. She said the number of employees in the CBD - currently 19,000 - had been decreasing since 2006.

The mayor's main focus was on plans for the river, which the other speakers agreed was one of Hamilton's main features.

Another focus for the night was what Hamilton can learn from other cities.

Hardaker and Lindberg spoke about lessons learned from the redevelopment of city centres in Henderson and Christchurch.

Other examples of successful CBDs were Brisbane, Birmingham, Manchester and New York.

The general consensus from the speakers was that the CBD should incorporate good branding, pedestrian space, a mixture of businesses and residential development, a safe environment, parking, amenities, and regulations that enable business growth. 

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- Waikato Times

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