HWCP Management Ltd director Scott O’Donnell says he tried to find an alternative site for Kmart because he believed it should have been developed in the middle of the CBD.
However, with the Kmart development now under way on Clyde St, Mr O’Donnell said the focus needed to be on linking Invercargill’s two planned retail projects.
Mr O’Donnell believes a walkway from the Kmart “shopping mall” development on Clyde St through to HWCP Management Ltd’s proposed retail precinct block, between Tay and Esk Sts, could play a role in helping create a vibrant, wider CBD.
As well as connecting the shopping centres, Mr O’Donnell believes the walkway would help revive the Otepuni Gardens by Wood St.
He suggested the walkway run from Clyde St, over the Otepuni Stream, through the back of the Wood St buildings and on to Tay St.
“We heard about that [Kmart] transaction late. (The Invercargill City) Council obviously offered them a site in Clyde St and we said ‘it doesn’t make sense, it should be closer to the CBD’.
“Council said, ‘why don’t you try and find an alternative site and make an offer’. So we did that, we tried hard to get the Esk St car park the council has, all the way through to Don St, and put Kmart there.
“They were offered that but still chose the Clyde St site.
“So now that’s done, the challenge is, right, let’s find a way to link what is happening in Clyde St, through the Otepuni Gardens up and through buildings on to Tay St, so people are happy to walk both ways.
“The Otepuni Gardens are beautiful. No one goes to them, but they are beautiful. Let’s find a way to use that green space and link the two shopping centres together.”
Mr O’Donnell said HWCP Management Ltd would be keen to be part of the walkway conversation, but he felt it was something the city council should take a lead on.
He was keen to see the council show “some real leadership” as part of a wider CBD strategy, which includes how to manage the heritage buildings.
“I’m not saying the council should pay for it all, but show some leadership by saying, ‘right, we want to see these things done. Let’s adjust our district plan to say this is the way forward, and start to work with funding partners to work out a way to make it happen’.”
Mr O’Donnell felt there was enough capital in Invercargill to ensure a vibrant wider CBD was in place, “instead of hoarding it for a rainy day”.
“It is raining now,” he said.
“We have got so many public funds floating around this town, but they are just not being used effectively, in my opinion.
“We have got roughly $120 million in equity in [Invercargill City Council’s] Holdco and you’ve got to start asking the question whether that capital is being used for the best efforts of the ratepayers of Invercargill.
“Is owning lines companies all over the South Island actually what we need to do? Is owning forestry in Nelson what we need to do?”
Demolition has already started at Kmart’s Clyde St site, while HWCP Management Ltd is now awaiting resource consent to start its project.
It was hoped demolition would start early next year, Mr O’Donnell said.