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.
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