Retailer fears changes would turn George St into a ghost town

George St jeweller Brent Weatherall does not want proposed changes to the street to go ahead....
George St jeweller Brent Weatherall does not want proposed changes to the street to go ahead. PHOTOS: GREGOR RICHARDSON
George St retailers are passionate, but divided, when it comes to plans to make part of the city's main drag one-way.

A preliminary plan approved by the Dunedin City Council includes turning George St from Moray Pl - past the Octagon - to Frederick St, into a southbound one-way street.

Views of owners and retail managers approached by the Otago Daily Times yesterday ranged from turning the area into a pedestrian-only space, to keeping the status quo.

Jeweller Brent Weatherall wanted to retain the existing layout and said he was "hot under the collar'' about the plan.

The Dunedin City Council’s preliminary concept design for a one-way southbound George St aims to...
The Dunedin City Council’s preliminary concept design for a one-way southbound George St aims to give increased priority to pedestrians and cyclists. IMAGE: DUNEDIN CITY COUNCIL
Void owner Neil Gaudin also had deep misgivings about the proposal, which he regarded as a "fait accompli''.

The council's plan for the area also includes installing a counter-flow cycle/scooter lane, and a paved carriageway between Hanover and St Andrew Sts, where cyclists and pedestrians would have priority over motorists.

It is part of a planned $60million upgrade of the central city.

Rembrandt Menswear manager Shane Stevic believes the Dunedin City Council has not gone far enough.
Rembrandt Menswear manager Shane Stevic believes the Dunedin City Council has not gone far enough.
As an independent retailer, Mr Weatherall said he was in a different position to some other business owners on the street.

In his eyes, the plan was reducing cars on the street by 50%. He feared the proposal would turn the CBD into a ghost town and lead to the opening of "satellite malls'' elsewhere in Dunedin.

"I initially thought [the proposal] was a joke, it just blew me away,'' he said.

"I am really angry.''

Having George St as a one-way street would compound the problem of traffic congestion around the CBD, he said.

There will be opportunities for the public to give more feedback on the plan, and work is not due to start until 2021.

Other businesses approached thought the council had not gone far enough.

Rembrandt Menswear manager Shane Stevic said traffic in the area could be cut entirely, as it was in cities overseas, such as Barcelona.

Turning the street into a one-way system was not going to ease traffic congestion, and there were better ways to draw people into the city centre, Mr Stevic said.

George St could be turned into a vibrant pedestrian-only space with street entertainers. Another option was simply shutting it off at weekends, he said.

Modaks Espresso owner Jack Bradbury thought, on the whole, the plan would be good for the city, although it might affect Modaks' early morning coffee trade.

"People aren't going to stop going down this end of town,'' he said.

The major issue would be the disruption when the changes to the road were made, he said.

Parking in the area was also a concern raised by several businesses. About 25 parking spaces for mobility card holders, delivery vehicles and drop-offs are included in the plan.

Any further car parking in the area will be considered as part of a proposed parking study which would be run alongside other studies, such as economic assessment and environmental survey.

While some business owners spoken to said their customers did not tend to park on the street anyway, Mr Weatherall said Brent Weatherall Jeweller customers wanting services such as their keys cut or wanting to drop off watches used the parks.

Without being able to access the jeweller easily, they might choose to go to a "kiosk in South Dunedin''.

elena.mcphee@odt.co.nz

Comments

How about closing George Street to all traffic on the weekends & public holidays. Move the farmers market to George St. Have free parking everywhere. Maybe that would attract people. Try it and see what happens

It should NOT be one way, keep the two way, but introduce traffic slowing measures etc.

This is the same DCC that a few months ago wanted to close the one way road system and introduce a bunch of traffic calming measures to "encourage" people onto transport other than cars. A pretty stupid idea then and about the same with the George St plan.
Some of the retailers either have short memory or just ignore the past. I am pretty sure 40 years ago the retailers in the exchange area thought their area was a secure shopping centre for all the imaginable future. That was slightly wrong.
And trying to compare Dunedin with Barcelona is farcical. Barcelona has a population of 1.6 million and a couple million tourists each year - in a climate far more attractive to outside dining than Dunedin's.

This plan will just encourage more satellite shopping and the slow and steady death of the George St shopping precinct.

"Rembrandt Menswear manager Shane Stevic said traffic in the area could be cut entirely, as it was in cities overseas, such as Barcelona." What is Barcelona like during university vacations? Dunedin becomes very quiet. Suddenly there are parking spaces all around the North End and through to Moray Place. Footpaths, seldom crowded at any time, are sedate with more pedestrians watching where they are going and skilled at crossing the road safely. These are neither numerous enough nor "vibrant" enough to prevent the cafe-banks-retail-garden hybrid CBD looking sad, a No-Mates Precinct.

 

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