Nelson City Council’s group manager for environmental management Clare Barton responds to the Nelson Weekly’s series on the CBD.
We’re seeing rapid changes to the way people use our city centre and the businesses that operate within it. These changes are happening because the ways people work, shop and travel are changing – largely driven by the disruptive impact of digital technology.
City centres are less about things we had to do in the past – for example, posting letters, visiting the bank or going shopping for the lowest price day-to-day goods. A city centre can’t, and shouldn’t, compete on those terms any more.
We know that the way people spend money and time are not decreasing, but changing, and we need a plan to adapt to these changes.
Nelson’s city centre needs to develop into the place where people decide to go for something that can’t be found elsewhere or online. Successful modern cities play to their strengths and offer the best place for social experiences and face-to-face business exchanges.
Nelson’s strength is its place at the centre of the regional economy, and its brilliant public environment.
That environment is already a magnet for residents, visitors, talent and business, which is why it is the most significant business centre in the region.
Historically, the city centre has had nearly four times more jobs than Richmond, despite the city centre being far smaller in area. It has a more diverse and higher paid workforce than anywhere else in the region, so there is more money to spend.
Retail will continue to be an important and visible part of the city centre but is also subject to the greatest changes. Only 20 per cent of the jobs in Nelson’ city centre are in retail. In Richmond, nearly 40 per cent of all jobs are.
Our city centre can provide what other places and the internet do not – the best places to meet people and spend time, have unique experiences, great access and amenities, and good choices about where to live.
This is what the future of the city centre can be.
Nelson City Council is making a plan for how to invest in making our public environment even better, including green spaces, better access, and a new community hub and library. We also want to work with developers, including to create more places for inner city living.
The council, along with its economic development partner agencies, is in a unique position to set goals and invest in conditions that will enable the city we want for the future.