Council staff push for central city improvements

Glen Hazelton
Glen Hazelton
Details of a $13 million plan to upgrade the middle of Dunedin, with improvements to the Octagon, George St and other parts of the central city, will run the gauntlet of city councillors in cost-cutting mode next week.

And despite concern over the city's tight fiscal position, Dunedin City Council staff have recommended the work begin later this year, rather than be delayed for three years as part of a drive to ease the pressure on rates.

A report by council heritage policy planner Glen Hazelton outlined the 10-year work programme drawn up as part of the council's central city plan.

The programme included a $2 million spruce-up of the Octagon in stages, a $5 million transformation of Crawford and Cumberland Sts from one-way to two-way routes, if technically possible, and $1.1 million to improve pedestrian and shopper experiences along George and Princes Sts.

The work was estimated to cost $13,145,911, most of it coming from the council, and although earlier budgets had pencilled in funding worth about $6 million, more funding would be required to meet costs.

The proposed work programme prepared by Mr Hazelton would be presented to councillors at next week's pre-draft budget meetings.

It presented a budget with the start of work delayed by three years, until 2015-16, in keeping with a cost-cutting drive by council chief executive Paul Orders.

However, Mr Hazelton's report recommended the work begin later this year, at the beginning of the 2012-13 financial year, to maintain the "momentum" of the draft central city plan process already under way.

The first year's focus would be on the warehouse district, with $808,000 needed to transform Vogel and Bond Sts into "shared spaces" for people and motorists, and another $300,000 to begin investigation and design work for changes to the area's one-way streets.

Early investment in the warehouse precinct would support the private investment already being made in the area, and reflect the area's role as a potential driver for regenerating surrounding parts of the city, he said.

Improvements to the Octagon would follow in years 3, 4 and 8, initially improving the lower Octagon's spaces outside bars and restaurants, followed by improvements to the upper and lower Octagon's reserve land.

There were also plans for more "micro-spaces" throughout the central city, for people to spend time and relax, with an investigation in year 2 and 9 costing $689,000.

Improvements to George and Princes Sts would take place in year 6, costing $1.147 million.

Other parts of the project included improvements to Queens Gardens ($1.3 million in year 5), the Exchange ($556,000 in year 7) and Steamer Basin ($334,000 in year 10).

Mr Hazelton's report said the council's citywide amenity upgrades budget had for the last decade been divided between the central city and other areas, including St Clair, South Dunedin and the harbourside area.

The intention was to now focus for the next 10 years more on the central city, as a key driver for attracting visitors and private investment to Dunedin.

A delay would result in the appearance of the central city continuing to decline, possibly discouraging private investment, and the opportunity to support private investment in the warehouse precinct would "be lost".


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