Bold plan for George St

An image of the proposed George St design. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
An image of the proposed George St design. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Balance, calmness, consultation - all important words when it comes to analysing the proposal to rejig and regenerate the heart of Dunedin and its main street.

It is merely at the preliminary concept design stage but the vision for the future of George St, set out and approved by the Dunedin City Council this week, has become, and will continue to be, a major talking point for city residents.

What do we like about it? What concerns do we have? How much will it cost, really? Are there compelling reasons to throw our support behind the plan or are there serious concerns that should compel us to beg our councillors to say "taihoa"?

Above all, what do the people of Dunedin actually want from their main street?

The plan, in case you missed it, is part of the $60million upgrade of the central city, and the proposal is to make a chunk of George St one-way.

A cycle-scooter lane will run in the opposite direction. Footpaths will be widened to encourage main-street dining and public gatherings around new parklets, street furniture and artworks. And, intriguingly, a "paved carriageway" - that sounds grand - will give cyclists and pedestrians priority over motorists between Hanover and St Andrew Sts.

It's interesting. It's fresh. It's bold. It's the biggest potential change to the main street of Dunedin since Dave Cull was in short pants.

Now for some balance, calmness and consultation.

The need for balance is self-explanatory. Councillors need to consider the needs and wants of both the public and local businesses, and balance the feelings of those who value much of the present George St layout with the need to stay ahead of the game and future-proof the street.

Calm heads are required, obviously. As Dunedin drivers grumble about the prospect of traffic being pushed away from the CBD, thus clogging up other streets, and as some businesses make gloomy prognostications about what the proposals would mean for their bottom line, there is little to be gained by panicking or prevaricating.

And, while the major stages of consultation on the development of George St as part of the Central City Plan have passed, there is still plenty of opportunity to let our elected representatives know how we feel about this plan. Residents should take that opportunity if they feel strongly about it.

Perhaps another couple of words need to be considered - vibrancy and vision.

It is a word that cops a fearful battering these days, as every marketing guru under the sun uses it with painful frequency, but "vibrancy" carries real meaning.

We want the heart of Dunedin to be vibrant, surely. To give us reasons to go there, and to stay a while. To make us feel good about the city.

Perhaps, the businesses worried the removal of roughly 50% of the traffic and associated parking will have a deleterious effect on their cash registers will find that having a vibrant main street provided for them will actually get more people through the door.

That other glorious buzzword, "vision", is inescapably in play.

This is a period of huge development for Dunedin - the hospital rebuild, waterfont development, university projects, now a potential central city transformation - and one senses the vision of a wonderful city in 2050 is starting to take shape.

Cr David Benson-Pope might be a tad optimistic in his reference to George St as the best main street in New Zealand - but who is to say it can't get there eventually?

Comments

If council really want to know the mood of the people then the solution is quite simple. At the next council elections also ask people to choose between the 3 or 4 options.
There is no need to rush the refurb. Its not as if the council desperately need to spend another $60 million today. So spend a few hundred thousand, develop some more detailed plans and put it to the vote.
Or are councilors just too scared to do what people actually want?