Kirby Lane, left of The Kitchen cafe, runs off Bridge St in central Nelson. Photo: Charles Anderson.

Container development stalls after ‘red tape’ delays

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The local developer behind trying to build a shipping container mall on Bridge St says he is close to giving up on the idea after excessive red tape and bureaucracy threatens to make it too difficult to bring to life.

Galen King first proposed Kirby Lane in 2016 and hoped it would soon become a new laneway precinct in the heart of Nelson – complete with boutique shops, cafés, eateries, coworking space, event spaces, offices and even a children’s playground.

But in his submission to the city’s Long Term Plan (LTP), Galen says the project has stalled after “onerous requirements” around fire safety and seismic strengthening did not make the costs possible to bear.

Instead, Galen went ahead and surfaced the laneway so some vehicles can still park on it and to create a “canvas” for future development.

While he says he is grateful for many of the Nelson City Council staff and councillors who have been “fantastic, enthusiastic, encouraging and supportive”, the “bureaucracy and red tape of the resource management plan and the building code have put road block after road block in our way”.

Submissions on the LTP closed yesterday and one of the main focuses of it was trying to create a “smart little city” that promoted a “healthy, vibrant and thriving CBD”.

The plan’s discussion document reads: “We want our city centre to enrich and build our local culture – the bustling meeting place for everyone who lives, works and visits here.”

Galen is now leading this project from afar as he has moved with his young family to New York City for a few years.

“At times, I have to question why I’m continuing to pour my heart, energy, and money into this small project back in Nelson. It all just feels too hard. We are close to giving up on the container idea.”

He says that perhaps there are better ways to create micro retail spaces and shipping containers aren’t the best medium after all. However, he says the vision for the project has always been to be simple, cost-effective, well-designed, and unpretentious.

“I never wanted it to become a massive development.”

Galen says he is keen to support and encourage small businesses and is open to having events and food carts in the space – or even moving the Nelson Farmers Market there.

But he says the project needs support from the council to make this happen.

“It is just too hard jumping through hoops for a project that really is small in scale and, frankly, difficult to justify economically.”

Galen says he is not necessarily asking for funding although it looks more likely that Kirby Lane will be more of a community project than an economic development.

“We are pushing ahead despite all the bump and roadblocks, but it would be nice if this final phase was a little smoother. Or the risk is that nothing happens. And that would be a shame.”