Lower Hutt’s CBD – Where to from here?
With more businesses closing down or moving elsewhere from our CBD, we really need to have a long hard look at what we are doing and where to from here. Issues around High Street and the surrounding area have been around for a while now, and the longer we wait the more money we will waste with little, if any, progress.
In 2006 High Street and the surrounding area’s death warrant was expedited with the redevelopment of Westfield Queensgate. I say ‘expedited’ because High Street was already on the decline prior to Westfield. The issues that we currently face with Westfield being in play would have progressed eventually even without it. The proof is in the pudding – across the world ‘High Streets’ are dying or dead. We no longer live in the 1980’s when they were all the rage, and now need to refocus and invest in a new approach rather than flog a dead horse. Hundreds of thousands of ratepayer dollars on programmes and infrastructure to try and resuscitate High Street and the surrounding area has been spent since 2006 with no significant results. This money has been a waste.
So the big question – What should be our approach to bring people back to our CBD?
Let’s take a look at Petone.
I love it. Nearly as much as I love Wainuiomata. Jackson Street bars, cafes, restaurants, nightlife, the Petone Rec, the foreshore, the heritage, and most of all the vibrancy make Petone a great destination and attraction. One could fairly ask why keep throwing money at High Street in an effort to revitalise our CBD, when we could just jump on the boat and cruise with Petone?
This proposition has a lot of merit – but it would be the easy way out. One just has to remember what Petone was like 20 years ago – It was pretty undesirable. So what changed? We capitalised on Petone’s unique character. Residents alongside the business community and Council helped transform Petone into a unique experience. This is the key. This is what we need for our CBD.
We need to create a unique space which is seen as a destination by locals and visitors. Thankfully a vision on this front already exists – The Hutt River Promenade. For those who aren’t familiar take a look at the design next to this post. While some work is being completed on this front we need to be much more aggressive in making this happen. Currently thousands of dollars is still being poured into the High Street black hole – This needs to stop and be redirected towards the promenade vision.
Why the Promenade?
The Hutt River in my mind is one of the biggest assets we as a City hold. It’s our point of difference with other parts of the region, and we’ve turned our back on it. The promenade would encourage businesses, cafes, bars, apartment living and most importantly… people. The Hutt CBD would become a unique experience which cant be copied anywhere else in the region, and that’s excatly what people are attracted to.
Overall, a unique CBD experience viewed alongside the developments happening in our civic precinct would completely transform Lower Hutt as we know it. People will want to live, work, visit and spend in our CBD.
This won’t happen overnight – But the sooner we start the better.
Whats your thoughts? Do you have a different vision for Lower Hutt?