THE heart of Invercargill is set to be pumping once again, as plans for a large-scale development aimed at rejuvenating the CBD get under way.
HWCP Management Ltd directors Scott O’Donnell and Lindsay Thomas announced last week they had purchased a portfolio of CBD properties in the block bordering Tay and Esk Sts and Kelvin and Dee Sts, with a five-year plan to develop the area into a covered complex for retail, entertainment and hospitality.
“Invercargill needs a new heart – we can’t achieve this unless we have control of the land and buildings in this key block.”
Mr O’Donnell said they now owned 90% of the properties in the block and had a contract to purchase the former Southland Times building on Esk St from the Invercargill Licensing Trust.
HWCP is a joint venture between Invercargill City Property Ltd, owned by the Invercargill City Council’s Holdco investment enterprise, and HWR Property Ltd, part of HW Richardson Group. The company was set up earlier this year to advance developments in the CBD aligned with the Southland Regional Development Strategy.
Mr O’Donnell said the complex would be more than a mall or shopping centre. As well as retail, it would contain food and beverage outlets, entertainment, offices and apartments along with covered car parking.
Having apartments in the complex would increase foot traffic and drive demand for bars and cafes, he said.
The complex’s design would not be a “mirror box”, but rather would be a modern building which fitted in with the city, Mr O’Donnell said.
The operators of some of the large retail chains had been approached by HWCP and they had indicated they were “keen to talk” about opening a store in the new complex, he said. Many of the large retailers had not opened stores in Invercargill previously because there had not been any quality place for them to go.
As part of the development, many of the inner city block’s older buildings would need to be demolished, he said.
“We don’t want to rip everything down that can be retained, but the majority of the older buildings have no future.
“Most of the buildings have had it… it would cost three times more than the buildings’ commercial value to restore them.”
He confirmed the restored former New South Wales bank building owned by the Troopers Memorial Bank Corner Charitable Trust, would be retained.
Invercargill City Council city centre co-ordinator Kari Graber said integrating a mix of commercial retail, including space for incubator and small businesses, restaurants and accommodation was the direction town centres were moving now and would be vital to the project’s success.
“Malls in their current format are dead. It needs to be a town square… and have something for everyone.
“It is going to be really positive as long as it is done with pace.”
Ms Graber said she hoped some of the older buildings could be incorporated into the development.
“We need to maintain what we can and respect our past and heritage, but also add that modern element.”