Businesses abuzz over Trafalgar St pedestrian zone
Business owners hope a car-free zone at the top of Nelson's Trafalgar St will pull in extra visitors and create a "hub" in the city centre.
The section of street between Selwyn Place and Hardy St, known as upper Trafalgar St, will be closed to non-emergency vehicles for a four month trial from December to the end of March, after the city council voted unanimously for the measure on Thursday.
The council had recently sought feedback from the public on the closure, as well as having discussions with affected businesses and the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA).
The council received 171 submissions, with 20 opposed and 151 in favour of the closure.
Some of the key issues raised were around traffic flows and loss of parking, but council staff said NZTA did not foresee problems and traffic counts would take place both before and during the trial.
The staff assured councillors that provisions would be made for two additional mobility parks on Hardy St, as well as a drop off zone on Selwyn Place to allow for greater accessibility, particularly for elderly.
Kerry Ford, owner of Ford's restaurant and bar on upper Trafalgar Street, said getting the go-ahead from council was an exciting development.
"It's important we trial it, it's been talked about for so long. It should be positive; I hope those people who responded positively [in submissions] turn up"
The move would see the restaurant putting "potentially another 30 seats outside" and it was good to get on with planning for that, said Ford.
"We've been wanting to expand, so it's a great opportunity," said Dee Toma, manager of Sweet As cafe in the soon-to-be pedestrian zone. He wanted to find out whether there would be extra charges for putting out more tables.
Nick Wildely, director of Cod & Lobster Brasserie believed the car-free area would serve as a hub for the city.
"It will create an eating destination, and encourage interaction between restaurants. If we don't try it we will never know," he said.
"It will be fantastic for families with no stress of having cars go past. It will be great to see more entertainment outside" co-director, Kymberly Wildely said.
New Zealand Sotheby's International Realty on upper Trafalgar Street also supported the proposal.
"With consideration given to address parking requirements...we believe it will enhance local hospitality and add vibrancy to the city centre, complementing the climatic and lifestyle qualities that Nelson promotes as a region," said sales associate Simone Henbrey.
Council staff on Thursday advised that the "majority" of businesses at the top of Trafalgar were in favour of the trial.
They said their focus would be on attractive "dressings" for the area, including Christmas decorations and planter boxes, but it was best left to the businesses to organise activities in the space.
Staff said they had presented the Santa Parade organisers with some options to ensure that event could still proceed smoothly on Trafalgar St.
While most of the council discussion was focussed on the impact of the closure on businesses and the logistics of the trial, some councillors were keen to throw creative suggestions into the mix.
Cr Lawrey suggested the council could allow operators to come into the space. He suggested a ferris wheel, like the one traditionally placed at the top of Trafalgar St following the Masked Parade, could provide a strong attraction; Cr Kate Fulton said she'd like to see some "soft furnishings" such as bean bags, a giant chess set, and table tennis. However, no decisions were made on these additional suggestions.
The council's allowed a $80,000 budget for the closure - which includes one-off investment to get things up and running, as well as the extension of liquor licences. Some of the furnishings and equipment can be used for other council initiatives when the trial has concluded.