The TDC/Farmers car park may not be the smartest building in town. Largely an engineering work the building makes just a passing nod to local flavour - the random bluestone fixed to two external wall panels.
However the success of this building is not in the solid matter but in the voids that it creates. Pedestrian shopping areas need access and aeration to succeed.
Pre-earthquake, the Christchurch CBD provided a good example of this aspect of urban design. On the western side of Colombo St the CBD was perforated by streets, lanes and sheltered arcades. The walkable blocks were of small scale, were successful and therefore attracted re-investment and constant refreshment. However on the eastern side of Colombo St the blocks were not well perforated and retailing struggled. Re-investment was low, and Manchester St became run down and unattractive.
Turning to the Timaru CBD, the city block bounded by Church, Sophia, Canon, and Stafford Sts was always much too large to succeed. For decades there were virtually no shops on Sophia St - the reason was block size.
With the confident advances by the Farmers department store, came the rear pedestrian access and subsequent car parking facilities both at ground level and in the new building. The unworkable block size mentioned above has been cut in half. Timaru may not have anything quite as clever as Nelson with its public car park located inside the principle retail block, but the provision of public parking and walkable access from Sophia St to Stafford goes a long way to improving the overall CBD experience.
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