Region’s CBDs in need of rejuvenation

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How is South Canterbury going to save its CBDs from becoming eyesores, leaving everybody with the feeling that they are in serious decline?
Retailing has already had to cope with massive challenges. Until 1980, Saturday and Sunday trading was banned and weekends were generally for quality family time, then in 1990 the law was changed and we moved to trading every day, with a few exceptions.
Big-box developments and chain stores cut a swathe through our retail sector and now we have global web page retailers selling directly to customers.
Added to these challenges, post the 2011 earthquakes, the owners of many of Canterbury’s older CBD buildings are facing notices to strengthen their building structures or face closure.
CBDs with high quality and acceptable occupancy levels in the past have, in recent times, been left to unravel with any new structures springing up in pockets well away from the central heart of the community.
Local government must respond to these challenges with well-researched and tightly managed plans. Temuka is left with several large old hotels in its main street while the number of hotels in the region are declining. Waimate has a new stadium well away from its CBD and now local government is trying to shift its information centre to the stadium site, further threatening the critical CBD visitor foot traffic.
Timaru has chain stores such as The Warehouse and Smith City in the south and then many kilometres to the north are the likes of Briscoes, Harvey Norman and Pak’n Save.
Left in the middle is a shrinking but only partially operative CBD, with most new developments now being set up around the outskirts.
A great example of a successful rejuvenation strategy is Napier, where, after the destruction of the 1931 earthquake its CBD was rebuilt in Art Deco style. Then during the 1990s, the Napier City Council introduced a bylaw stopping the practice of painting out the Art Deco look and set about creating a visually attractive rejuvenation programme.
Today, Napier has a strong healthy CBD with massive biannual, week-long Art Deco events with huge visitor appeal from across New Zealand and abroad.
Each township in our region needs to push though with CBD restoration plans. It is not up to retailers and their property owners to carry the total load. The community as a whole needs to demand that insightful local government leadership produces and delivers a widely accepted 10-year progressive plan.
There are a few early signs of rejuvenation within the Timaru CBD but much, much more needs to be done. Imagine if each South Canterbury town had its own powerful identity with related activities that drew all of us to participate and celebrate with them.