City precinct plan brought forward

Funding for the Dunedin City Council's warehouse precinct plan will be brought forward three years to next year's budget, so staff can take advantage of significant private investment and improvement happening in the area now.

The warehouse precinct is south of Queens Gardens around Crawford and Vogel Sts.

The central city plan is a new project with a 10-year programme of amenity improvements to enhance the area and encourage works.

The plan has been developed across council departments.

It aims to improve the area's economic, social and cultural vitality; and the safety and convenience there for a variety of users.

The plan suggests several physical changes, including the creation of "pocket parks"; protecting and re-using heritage buildings; providing better conditions for pedestrians and cyclists and encouraging more inner-city living.

Funding was approved yesterday for a targeted and co-ordinated strategy to accompany the private investment already under way in the area.

Council agreed to include $500,000 in its 2012-13 budget for some short-term amenity improvements in the precinct.

It committed to $80,000 for further investigation into roading changes around the precinct in order to get funding from the New Zealand Transport Association to implement them.

And $70,000 was earmarked to facilitate the re-use of buildings in the precinct.

Just over $160,000 of that money would have to come from rates, so to keep the rates increase down, the equivalent would have to found from savings in other areas of the council's budget, and council could expect a report on that today, council general manager city strategy and development Sue Bidrose said.

If staff recommendations are approved, staff will work with building owners and key stakeholders in the precinct towards improving business there and funding future amenity improvements.

It was hoped to develop a policy that would guarantee maintaining existing rates levels for heritage buildings for a set period.

This would act as an incentive for owners to invest in strengthening their buildings against possible earthquakes.

Re-use of heritage buildings would also act as an incentive for owners towards capital works to improve their properties.

A steering group would report back to council on a revised implementation proposal for the annual plan deliberations in 2013-14.

In total, the proposed central city projects over the next 10 years are expected to cost about $12 million, although, subject to approval, roading costs included could be heavily subsidised by the NZTA.

The plan also includes a large non-capital component funded through existing budgets, including no-cost or low-cost initiatives, such as using vacant spaces, co-ordinating stakeholders and working closely with building owners to help with their projects.

Dr Bidrose said the funding was just for one year, to "kick things off", and the intention was to report back to councillors during next year's annual planning.

Cr Richard Thomson said the area was critical to Dunedin's future.

The precinct had slowly been disintegrating in front of residents' eyes, he said.

The projects proposed in the plan were to act as incentives to revitalise the area, he said.


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