CBD upgrade slow but ongoing

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WORK has not started on the next stage of Invercargill’s inner city upgrade despite it being about six months since the first stage was completed. But those overseeing the project confirm it is still going ahead.
‘‘We are still progressing it, but it is slower than we would have liked it to be,’’ Invercargill City Council (ICC) Inner City Working Group chairman Cr Graham Sycamore said.
The upgrade of Esk St between Dee St and the Cambridge Place Arcade was the first stage of a 12-stage multi-million dollar CBD rejuvenation plan. When the ICC approved the project in August 2013, it was estimated to cost over $12 million and was expected to take about two years to complete.
Cr Sycamore said he was disappointed with the slow progress.
‘‘We are behind the eight-ball now. I am hoping by this time next year we will have made some progress and have a clearer picture where we are going with this thing.’’
Cr Sycamore said because the rejuvenation project had been approved, the working group intended to follow it, but aspects of the project could change after consultation with the affected parties at each stage.
The next stage of the project involves upgrading Esk St between the Cambridge Place Arcade and H&J Smith, and Kelvin St between Tay and Don Sts.
Cr Sycamore said work on stage two had been put back as a result of the first stage taking longer than expected to complete.
The upgrade of Esk St was initially expected to be completed in May last year, but was completed in early November due to the stormwater pipes needing to be upgraded and bad weather hampering the work.
The uncertainty regarding the fate of The Southland Times building was also delaying stage two, Cr Sycamore said.
A preliminary draft of the work required for Kelvin St had been completed and it was hoped the work would be finished before the local body elections in October, he said.
ICC roading manager Russell Pearson said the work planned for Kelvin St was relatively minor, predominantly around improving the footpaths and streetscape.
The ICC had not conducted a pedestrian count in Esk St since the upgrade was completed, but observations suggested more people were in and around the street, he said.
‘‘[Our brief was to provide] more amenities so people will want to come into the city. I think we have done that… Facilities are there now where they weren’t before.’’
The ICC could provide facilities to make the experience as enjoyable as possible, but the shopping experience would determine if people spent their money in the CBD, he said.

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