Business backs council funding more of CBD

An artist's impression of the Esk St entry to Invercargill's proposed new CBD precinct. Image:...
An artist's impression of the Esk St entry to Invercargill's proposed new CBD precinct. Image: Supplied
Southland business owners want the Invercargill City Council to raise its investment in the City Block Development (CBD).

The council originally was to invest $25million for the first three stages of six and HWR Property Ltd, part of the H.W. Richardson Group Ltd, and Geoff Thomson would contribute the same.

However, Mr Thomson withdrew $21million last year leaving a $16million funding gap.

At a hearing in Invercargill on Wednesday, Southland Chamber of Commerce president Neil McAra said 78% of those who responded to its survey supported the council increasing its investment in the project by an extra $16million.

More than 450 people made submissions through the council’s consultation phase — from May 19 to June 12 — which included three options.

Option one was to invest an extra $21million, bringing the total council investment to $46million to cover the shortfall — because of a change in the cost of borrowing, no further rates increases were anticipated. This was the council’s preferred option.

Option two was to keep investment at $25million. However, the developer indicated this would mean the project would be unlikely to proceed.

The same was said for option three, which would repurpose $5million for design changes, for a total of $30million.

Sixty percent of submitters voted for the council to cover the shortfall, while 18% chose option two. Only 8% voted for option three and 13% picked no option in their submission.

Invercargill city councillors heard from 20 members of the public who asked to speak to their submissions.

Other speakers on Tuesday had asked the council to reconsider the plans; Bob Simpson said it would not solve present community needs.

"Invercargill city councillors could now reconsider what is best for Invercargill City," he said.

He and several others were concerned there would be issues retaining tenants. Several speakers said they would rather have inner-city accommodation.

Representatives from the Invercargill Youth Council said they supported the project. Another speaker, Cherie Chapman, was in support if it was not built to be an "outdated 1950s construct" and could incorporate museum exhibitions.

The council has applied for the Government’s "shovel-ready" funding, and if approved, the $16million shortfall would be met.

The council will deliberate on June 23 and will make a decision on June 29.

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