Transforming Hamilton: Steve Hart has his say
Hamilton needs a make-over - and quick - according to self-proclaimed ecological architect Steve Hart.
The Raglan-based consultant for Steve Hart Associates says debate about how to keep the city centre alive has been raging for decades, and now is the time to act.
Hart is calling for the community to rally and set up working groups on what changes are needed, involving business leaders and the city's elite, to make sure it happens.
While pumping life back into the city is "not an easy, one-fix solution" Hart says it is possible. He points to the vibrant cafe life in the heart of Paris, and says there is nothing stopping Hamilton from enjoying the same.
"There's plenty of models around, we don't have to redesign the wheel."
The key to pumping life back into the city is "people", Hart says. His vision would see "lots of apartments" scattered throughout the city, with nearby amenities to give people no reason to leave town.
"You go to cities around the world, and it's people: people make it.
"Go to Paris, and hang out for a week... you'll understand what I mean. People live on the streets, the cafe culture is phenomenal. Why not?"
Hart also suggests "bowling" the entire eastern side of Victoria St, and opening it up to gardens and boutique cafes that draw people to the river.
As to who would fund the idea and reimburse those who own buildings there, Hart says to win long-term, building owners in town need to take a hit now.
As he sees it, inaction will leave them with empty buildings for the foreseeable future. Action, even if it is drastic, at least gives them a chance of filling other buildings around town if Hamilton can sell itself as a desirable city.
Hart also says that joint-ventures and foreign direct investment should be considered to see what the city can come up with to give it a point of difference.
"It's easy, design-wise it's real easy. But who's got the balls to stand up and do anything?"