“If you plan cities for cars and traffic, you get cars and traffic.
If you plan for people and places, you get people and places.”
– Fred Kent
I am no expert on city planning but this makes a whole lot of sense to me. And Fred Kent is a bit of a guru who you can find out more about here: http://www.pps.org/about/team/fkent/
Even though I am no expert I have a few thoughts about our Inner City. These are just things that make sense to me. They won’t be a magic bullet and everyone will still have to work pretty hard to change things but we have to do something and the reality is we have to do a few things that maybe people won’t like.
The current parking on Esk St is for 30 min. What is the message I am getting when I pull into a 30 min park? I want you to try to find a park as close as possible to the shop you want to go into, get out of your car, go into that shop, get what you need then get back in your car and leave.
If I was a retailer is that the message I would want to be sending someone? The message I would want to send is find a park, have a wander, go to the shop you need to go to, stop for a coffee, think about the shoes in the window you walked past, decide you better go buy them, then maybe leave. I can’t do that in a 30 minute park.
I think what the council has done on Esk Street looks great. It’s freshened the area up and it’s provided some great space for people to sit and hang out. It’s helped to slow the traffic down even more which was one of the aims. It looks good.
Will that in itself attract people into town to shop?? I don’t think so. And if more areas are tidied up in this way will that attract more people to shop? Again I don’t think so.
So what is the council’s role here? I think the council’s role is to help with the first part – to attract people to town – it’s up to retailers to take advantage of those people and get them into their shops and spending money.
Attracting people into town has two potential outcomes – one is that it adds to the vibrancy of a place and people want to be where there is vibrancy. Vibrancy is a great outcome. The second part is that it creates opportunities – and among those opportunities are the opportunities for retailers.
So in a place like Invercargill, where it can be a bit windy or wet sometimes, where we have big wide streets and where we seem to have developed this mental block when it comes to walking from shop to shop – what should we do? And in terms of things to do in the Inner City that aren’t shopping – what are our options?? Have you drawn a blank too?
With that in mind these are my thoughts on what we could do in the Inner City:
1. Block Esk Street to traffic
2. Cover it with a roof or series of roofs and add a few wind breaks in the middle
3. Put an Invercargill focused museum in the inner city somewhere
4. Bring the Anderson’s Park Art Gallery collection into town and bring other art from SMAG into town too
5. Create an interesting walkway down Dee St to the WWII memorial and then connect with SMAG and then create an interesting walkway down Kelvin St to connect the Inner City and SMAG – because it’s not that far to walk but it could be made much more interesting
6. Put wind breaks and shelters in the middle of the roads especially Tay & Dee Streets
7. Improve Wachner Place – make it greener and use it more
8. Take advantage of our wide streets to get better cycle lanes
9. Most importantly – give someone a job making things happen in the Inner City – facilitating activities, entertainment, events, action, art etc
And before people start saying people in Invercargill like to park close by etc etc, I have heard that in every place I have ever lived or visited and just because everyone wants that doesn’t mean logical, sensible or even doable.
And people live in places with far worse weather than we have so lets not use that as an excuse either.
And for the record it’s about 500 metres from the middle of Esk St to Farmers – that’s about the same distance as walking up and down every aisle in Countdown.
We can complain and be negative all we like but that’s not going to make our city better or change anything.
I want to make this place the best it can be. These are my thoughts on how we can start to do that. I have tried to focus on people and attracting people into town; on providing things for people to do in town that isn’t shopping; I have tried to take into account our weather; and focused on connecting the city with landmarks like Queens Park and SMAG. I have tried to focus on the future. And hopefully the outcomes of these things will be vibrancy and opportunities and that will be good for everyone.