Business leaders upbeat

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Space on Stafford . . . Peter Wilson, of real estate company Reid Wilson First National says despite the number of buildings for lease on Timaru's main street he's positive about development in the CBD. PHOTO: GRETA YEOMAN

by Greta Yeoman

Despite the rise of online shopping and at least 15 commercial spaces still up for lease on Stafford St, Timaru business representatives are still feeling positive about the future of the town’s main street.

Aoraki Development operations manager Di Hay said the economic development agency would “love” to see all the shops and buildings filled on Stafford St.

“Having a vibrant, busy CBD is good for everyone who lives and works here.”

Timaru Mayor Damon Odey echoed her comments, saying that attracting more people in to the centre of town – whether through more eateries or apartments – could help provide a boost to Timaru’s economy.

However, when The Courier did a recent count-up of the empty retail and office spaces for lease on Stafford St – between North St and Port Loop – there were 13 spaces up for lease under Reid Wilson First National, two advertised by KPI Rothschild and another three that were private leases.

While there were closer to 30 empty spaces between North St and Port Loop, The Courier has chosen to focus just on the ones up for lease.

“Having a vibrant, busy CBD is good for everyone who lives and works here.” – Di Hay

Peter Wilson, of real estate company Reid Wilson First National, said “destination shopping” to shopping malls, the rise of online shopping and smaller retailers opting to trade from home had all contributed to the current state of Stafford St.

“As time has gone on supply obviously now exceeds demand.”

Mr Wilson, whose grandfather had also leased shops on Stafford St in the 1930s, said there had “always” been vacant buildings on the main street during his 30 years in business.

“Fortunately for Timaru we have only one main street [Stafford].”

“[It is] an issue for the landlords because the works will be completed at their cost. It is an expensive and time-consuming process.”Ms Hay said the vacant shops and premises did change from time to time as new tenants were attracted into the street.

“Certainly the building owners are always interested to talk to people who may be keen in taking on a lease.”

She said there were always multiple things for potential tenants to consider when moving into a new space, including the size of the premises, the kind of business looking at going into it, access to parking or if there has to be a new fit out undertaken.

Room to choose . . . The window of a downstairs retail space for lease reflects the other side of Stafford St, of which two of the opposing buildings are also up for lease. PHOTOS: GRETA YEOMAN

“It’s about finding the right fit for the shop or premises.”

Earthquake-strengthening work was also become a rising issue for the town’s property owners, an issue that the council had begun to address last year.

Mr Wilson said many landlords in Timaru had already been strengthening their buildings to meet the new legislation requirements, while others were seeking engineering advice about how to bring their buildings up to code.

Mr Odey said the council had hosted a series of workshops for business owners and property managers in May last year, to help them understand the Government’s new building code standards for quake-prone buildings.

The council had also set aside $1.4 million last year to help bring several of its earthquake-prone buildings up to standard, however, the council-owned Sophia St car park had been demolished at the weekend.

He was also positive about the potential for new development to still retain the “heritage” style of the rest of Stafford St, naming the Aoraki Development building on the corner of Sefton St East and Stafford St as one example.

Mr Odey also hoped the eventual heritage facility development with the Theatre Royal and several buildings across the road, which were now owned by Timaru District Holdings Ltd (TDHL), would help “revitalise” the southern end of the CBD.

Mr Wilson was also feeling positive about the council’s proposed heritage facility development.

“It is great to see the Timaru District Council being proactive in their approach to the south end, which can only have a positive flow-on effect for the balance of the main street.”

Mr Wilson was pleased with the ongoing development on the street, including the development of the CML building on the corner of Stafford and Strathallan – which will provide new office and retail space – and the upcoming Hydro redevelopment at the top of the street, which is expected to turn into an apartment block.

He also said the company had three new prospective tenants looking at some of the leases the company had for offer on Stafford St.

“So hopefully that will be three less vacant shops down the track.”

Mr Odey said the council was focusing on making potential development in the town easier and more inviting, including through its own investments through TDHL.

These had included purchases of several buildings opposite the Theatre Royal last year, along with a large property on Turnbull St – which runs parallel to Stafford, he said.

One way council was hoping to make life easier for developers had been to employ Fraser Munro as the business development manager – basically a one-stop point of call for all council-based development queries, Mr Odey said.

“We want to roll out the red carpet, not the red tape.”