On Tuesday this week Colin Bass of Business Lab presented suggested directions forward for the Timaru CBD. Following initial explanatory sessions, two lively workshops were attended by about 100 CBD stakeholders on 22 and 23 February.
While Mr Bass no doubt had the experience of similar events in other centres to call upon, he promoted involvement from the floor on each occasion and looked for consensus rather than differences of opinion. Staying away from the conventional SWOT analysis, he was concentrating on the O for opportunities.
High on the list of stakeholders' support for the future of the CBD was the retention of heritage character, being an element that has created a unique flavour for Timaru.
Younger towns and cities such as Wanaka and Taupo that have grown rapidly, possess few buildings in their town centres that contribute a sense of permanence and strength. Indeed in an electronic age a trading bank for example has a much reduced need for space.
The overall character of central Timaru is exemplified in the Empire Hotel building in Church St. The Empire was built on the Stafford St corner where Hallensteins are now located, so the building that remains is in fact the Empire Hotel Extension.
With its well tailored façade, good proportions and plenty of space within, the building will no doubt meet new uses over time. Such buildings – perhaps repopulated by apartments – will continue to provide a heart to the CBD for many years to come.
Recently an unpleasant odour closed off the Royal Arcade and part of Stafford Street. Unlike the mystery smell the occasionally hits central Timaru, this disruption was traced back to the Arcade.
It is not the first time such an event like this has happened and in the same location. During the construction of the Priest and Holdgate new building and the extension to the Timaru Herald building in 1906 various problems were encountered. As the Arcade was built over a filled in gully, the foundations for each building had to be sunk 20 feet, and the workmen struck the roots of the peach trees from the original orchard on the site. They also struck the concrete foundations of an old blacksmith’s shop. The concrete aggregate included whole and broken glass bottles which lacerated the contractors hands, and necessitated the use of heavy leather gloves.
However the public problems happened when the contractors tried to make the connection with the main sewer line. During the third (and final) exploration pit, they hit the sewer main at a depth of twelve feet. According to the Timaru Herald (whose building was on the Arcade) “The pit promptly served as a ventilating pipe, the effluvium that arose through it was decidedly strong.”
By a week later the whole of the Arcade roadway opposite the pits has subsided slightly due to the softer infill that was used to cover the trenches once the sewer lines had been connected. With a gas main being laid through the Arcade two years later and the ground asphalted, the early underground problems were well and truly sealed over.
Tucked in between the South Canterbury Museum and Perth Street, diagonally across from the Timaru Council Buildings, is the beautiful Kate Sheppard Memorial Garden. This was gifted to the City by the Citizens of Timaru to celebrate the centennial of Women’s Suffrage. It was officially opened by Dame Miriam Dell on July 3rd, 1993.
A beautiful little corner of town, providing a quiet and peaceful space for a moments pause and reflection during a busy day. I often notice people sitting on the wooden bench as I pass by, soaking up the sun, enjoying their lunch or just a takeaway coffee with a friend.
There is a path or two running throughout, some well -built Timaru Blue Stone walls and the plantings follow a lavender and white theme. Kate Sheppard has a rather lovely white camellia named after her and I am sure there are some of these dotted among the plantings along with white roses and purple (lavender) is the official suffrage colour. Some fine trees are beginning to become more significant, in particular a beautiful copper beach is just starting to show its form. The garden softens the modern façade of the South Canterbury Museum and the pretty tower at St Mary’s can be seen in the background.
Recently I saw a fantastic Rock Stage Show called ‘That Bloody Woman’ in Christchurch. It was written by Luc De Somma , a New Zealander, detailing the life and story of why and how Kate Sheppard achieved her goal of getting NZ women the vote. It was fantastic way of telling a younger generation about her incredible accomplishment and the many battles she faced.
Dame Miriam Dell was a wonderful person to choose to open the garden, another impressive New Zealander who has been and continues to be at the forefront of women's issues in New Zealand and internationally for over 30 years, promoting women's advancement and equal rights in society.
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