Nelson retailers were called upon at a meeting on Monday evening to present ideas and solutions on how to fix our broken CBD.
The city centre retailer’s forum was a joint initiative from Uniquely Nelson, NRDA (Nelson Regional Development Agency) and the Nelson City Council to ask for input from city retailers on what the future of the CBD looks like.
Around 60 business owners from the CBD gathered at the Suter Art Gallery to present ideas and priorities to council on how to fix the city centre.
Council senior city development planner Alistair Upton, who is part of a newly established team that will partly focus on the CBD, shared figures on the spending patterns of Nelson residents in a bid to try and showcase where our strengths and weaknesses lie.
The group heard how spending on accommodation and clothing in the region has dropped between two and 4.7 per cent over the last year but that we are spending more than $37 million at bars and restaurants in a time when visitor numbers have never been so strong.
Mayor Rachel Reese addressed the group that has “a lot of skin in the game” and discussed what Nelson will be into the future.
“The city is the commercial heart of the top of the South Island and, critically, it plays that role. It’s the anchor for many other businesses and industries around our region. ”
She says Nelson needs arts, culture and civic places and that the city development is a key priority in the long-term plan.
She also spoke of key events that will be happening across the region and how council is committed to investing in bring these events, one of which is the up-coming All Blacks match at Trafalgar Park.
“We could stop investing in all of those things, we could stop investing in civic infrastructure, yes, I could deliver you probably a zero-rates rise for the next ten years.
“We could just pull all of that funding, I don’t think that’s the right thing to do and so this is part of an on-going investment that I think is important for all of us.”
Council group manager environmental management Clare Barton then opened the floor to the group but stressed she was looking for solutions to the problems that were being presented, not just issues.
“I’m really looking for a focus around solutions. What do we need to do, all of us, to make things change and go forward and grow as a city?”
Some spoke of the need for better conference facilities, while others voiced concerns over the lack of maintenance of Trafalgar Street’s trees, that have now grown so high you cannot see the Christ Church Cathedral from the inner city.
Shine owner Jo Menary made a simple suggestion for the empty store fronts.
“I think that landlords of these empty shops should be made to beautify it in some way. They should be able to get, even from the Council, stick-ons of things that people can do in the region whether it be of Abel Tasman or some other things, it would just take away that look of being just an empty shop.”
“I’m a very happy retailer but I think we need to change the perception of things. Why do people only see the closed shops, why aren’t we focusing on the stores that are open? This is where the focus needs to be.”
The forum followed a similar meeting with CBD landowners and Clare Barton says there were some key messages that came through from there as well.
“Some of the things that they put forward was around car-parking – there was a proposal for a car parking building, access and egress around and into the city, inner city living and green space which go hand-in-hand.
The also wanted us to keep our ‘heritage and boutique feel’ and that was critical.”
The Nelson Weekly and Nelson App believes that Nelson needs bold action to match the bold talk when it comes to the CBD.
Over the next few weeks we will be exploring the challenges, opportunities and prospects for the CBD.
We believe Nelson needs bold action to match its bold talk when it comes to the CBD.
The council wants our city centre to be the “bustling meeting place for everyone who lives, works and visits here”. But you don’t have to go far to hear stories of woe from business owners, trying to make things happen, but only to be met with red tape road blocks.
The council wants Nelson to be a “smart little city” but has only put aside $200,000 a year for CBD enhancement – a paltry sum in the scheme of the organisation’s spending.
In 2014 Mayor Rachel Reese spoke about trying to revitalise the CBD. She quoted several issues including, incentivising private investment in public places, and reducing red tape for development opportunities as things to work on. Four years on there is little noticeable difference. So, for the next few weeks we will explore what the challenges, opportunities and prospects for the CBD. Monday’s meeting was a good first step. Now Nelson needs to run.
If anyone would like to put forward any ideas or suggestions, please get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org