Most eager to see CBD upgrade start

Balclutha retailers and residents are keen for plans to upgrade the town centre to finally become reality.

The Clutha District Council last week approved the $2.6 million project - six weeks behind schedule - after two rounds of planning and consultation.

Originally, the John St-Clyde St intersection was considered the likely spot for redevelopment as a pedestrian-friendly central business area.

But then the council acquired land in Elizabeth St, which will become the focus of a redeveloped town centre.

The loss of some parking on the main street was a divisive issue. Parking will be monitored.

The Otago Daily Times approached some retailers and residents for their take on the streetscape upgrade.

Balclutha business owner Mark Van Asperen, who had favoured work at both John St and Elizabeth St, said he was pleased something was going ahead.

''Bite the jolly bullet and get on with it,'' he said.

Clyde St fruit and vegetable store owner Roger Young said parking was a sacrifice some retailers needed to accept.

''To make the thing look good, you've got to compromise something.''

Without a main street upgrade, Balclutha was in danger of becoming a ''zombie town''.

But Balclutha resident Betty Sell opposed the loss of any car parks.

''I reckon they could do it with only losing about three, or half a dozen,'' she said.

She said the process was a ''waste of money'' and feared the work could ''kill'' the town.

''I think they wasted $400,000 on getting somebody to plan it. They could've just asked the locals.''

Puerua Valley resident Roy Johnstone was not convinced an upgrade would attract visitors and help retailers.

He had hoped a water feature or sculpture would be added but conceded the plans were better than nothing.

''Clyde St is boring, shabby and tatty and needs to be done,'' he said.

The parking issue was ''absolutely bizarre ... it's just anti-change.''

Most people should park off the main street, he said.

Resident Kerry Seymour said she was happy something was happening but worried the plans were too ''diluted''. She was also worried about the decision-making process.

''I think everybody should be allowed to have their say and I hope we end up with something nice, but if you keep changing things, sometimes you don't end up with anything, do you?''

Real estate agent Adraian Stott said she was pleased to ''finally have the go ahead''.

''The 'Clutha main street has been very tired for a long time,'' she said.

''It would be great to see it altered and have people arrive in town and actually think it's alive.''

Lesley Tilson, who used to own a main street property, said resurfacing the street was a priority.

Saving some of the parking spots for retailers was important, but so was monitoring parking.

''It needs it though, doesn't it, the town?'' she said.

''Do it properly. Do it well.''

Jewellery shop owner Janice Munro successfully submitted on behalf of some John St retailers to have three parking spots reinstated.

''Democracy has taken place,'' she said.

''It's all good.''

Clutha District Youth Council chairwoman Kate Morrison said finding a balance was important in a small town, and she was excited to see something happen.

''It's been a long process, but I think everyone got their say.''

hamish.maclean@odt.co.nz

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