There has been a whole bunch of articles in the Press lately advocating different ideas for central city revitalisation. The latest one has some good ideas, but in isolation is just another “more car parks will solve everything” rant. A group of central city business people were invited by the Mayor to submit ideas for revitalising the inner city. Here are five ‘key ideas’ that were put forward:
- Development and contributions removed for any type of development within the four avenues.
- Set up a central-city economic zone and use a rates levy annually to pay for promotion of the central business district.
- Permanent two hours free parking and leaving parking buildings open for free parking at night.
- Introduce a rating cap so the incremental capital value increase resulting from development is not rated for up to 10 years.
- Planning and building more strategically placed off-street parking in the central city for short and long-term parking.
Allowing ‘any type’ of development could lead to developments that are detrimental to the character of the CBD, or ‘quick buck’ solutions in my opinion. Extending the two-hours free parking in the city centre has some merits, but again why should the Council pay for parking? If businesses are so worried about the need for car parks maybe they could put their funds together for some of their own spaces to be placed at ‘strategic locations’, just as the suburban malls pay for their own car parks. I simply find it astounding that the lack of car parking in the city centre myth keeps coming up time and time again. It’s just not true!
Getting back to what this blog is all about, it is disappointing to see, once again, inner city business leaders failing to mention ideas such as making the city centre into a people friendly place (shared spaces, green spaces, pedestrian areas etc), improving access for cyclists (better lanes and secure lock-up facilities), and improving public transport. It’s just cars cars cars. I really think that some of this thinking is just to short-term but is attempting to put it in a long-term context. In reality, I think we have to bite the bullet and start to develop and implement a master plan from scratch, along the lines of what has been proposed by Jan Gehl. It’s also worth taking a look at what the new Auckland Council are looking with their 20 year vision for their inner city.
All is not lost however. Architect Peter Beaven made some good calls in a recent opinion piece about inner city stimulation in the Press. The following are six immediate objectives of his plan:
- Many more people in the city centre.
- To provide the widest range of services to this new population.
- More small, modest rent spaces for small businesses.
- City aesthetics: (a) Heritage to take in streetscape, and (b) a new building design guide.
- To eliminate one-way streets.
- To alter the City Plan which currently allows maximum development everywhere in the city centre. Land, of course, stays empty waiting for that to happen. Land values stay much too high, and prevent more diverse development.
In another recent opinion piece, former Spreydon-Heathcote Community Board member Paul de Spa made calls to improve pedestrian access and public transport in the inner-city suburb of Sydenham and stop focusing on cars and car parking. Contrast all these views with the five ‘key ideas’ above and you start to get a picture of what these ideas are lacking.
There is other recent good news though. An upgrade for New Regent Street has been announced and (long awaited) plans for the Turners and Growers sight should be released next week. This should have an impact on the direction and shape of inner city revitalisation, so this will be interesting to watch.
**edit** another interesting opinion piece here. Seems everybody wants to weigh in on the discussion, but I am starting to see some common ideas develop.