The draft 2014/15 Annual Plan: Central City zone

Hamilton City Council’s Annual Plan for the coming 12 months has been open for submissions since April 2. This Friday 2nd May will be the closing date for submissions, so we’ll be running a series of posts this week outlining what’s in the plan and giving some guidance on making a submission in support of a more vibrant, liveable and sustainable city.

Executive Summary of the 2014/15 Annual Plan

  • Expansion of Hamilton Gardens, funded in part via a levy of $10 per household per year for the next 4 years
  • The council’s financial situation is improving, and expected to be cashflow positive by 2017, however further asset sales are being considered
  • Safety will be improved in the CBD by way of additional CCTV and security personnel
  • Several public playgrounds will be enhanced
  • Further development of the River Plan
  • Re-evaluation of council’s role in social housing (perhaps implying further asset sales?)
  • Possible transfer of Hamilton bus operations to Hamilton City Council from Waikato Regional Council
  • The rating system may switch to being calculated based on capital value instead of land value
  • A new “central city transformation plan”
  • Review of community grants allocation process

Many of these have been covered in the media to some extent and probably have wide public support, or at least acceptance. So of particular interest to us are the central city plan, the bus operational review, rating system change and the somewhat nebulous ‘river plan’.

Central City Transformation Plan
Today we’ll look at the central city transformation plan, details of which are rather sparse in the 2014/15 Draft Plan. For a better understanding of where the council may be heading with respect to the central city, we have to delve into the Proposed District Plan, which is currently at the hearings stage.

The text of the Central City Zone section of the proposed district plan is available here (PDF)

The plan divides the central city area up into a series of precincts according to the mix of activities each one is expected to cater for. Let’s look at them in turn:

Downtown Precinct

  • bounded to the east by the western banks of the Waikato River; by London Street to the north, Tristram Street to the west and lots fronting Hood Street to the south
  • Region’s commercial growth centre for next 30 years
  • Continued development of an attractive, pedestrian-oriented central city will be promoted
  • At street level, there will be a requirement for active building frontages, including retail, dining and entertainment. Above ground level, high-density commercial offices and residential use will be encouraged.

Central City Precinct

So, a lot of exciting ideas there, and the artist’s renderings and photos imagine an attractive and people-friendly environment. The intention is for the downtown precinct to be a fun place to work and live for a diverse group of citizens, with an environment characterised by open public spaces and connection to the river. It will remain the preferred cultural and entertainment destination. There’s little mention of transportation though – for that we must jump to the Objectives and Policies section, where we find:

Key attractors and areas of interest within and surrounding the Central City shall be connected through attractive, efficient and safe passenger transport and pedestrian and cycle links.

Increased development opportunities are created by establishing a finer-grain street
block pattern for pedestrian accessibility, emphasising links to key features and attractions.

Traffic and transport corridors shall be managed to enhance passenger transport connectivity, prioritise safety and convenience for pedestrians and cyclists, and encourage the removal of unnecessary traffic from within the Central City.

If “passenger transport” seems a rather vague term to use, it may be on account of the fact that this policy, as part of the proposed district plan, is necessarily broad in both scope and timeframe.

Overall, there seems a lot to be enthusiastic about in the long-term plans for this precinct. However, I think the city planners have to accept that with more people living in the centre in developments providing fewer car parks, there’s going to be greater demand for segregated cycling facilities that provide that all important perception of safety that is crucial to many people riding bikes. More use of shared spaces (as between Worley Place and Alexandra Street) and, hopefully, pedestrianisation of some streets should be on the horizon.

City Living Precinct

  • area bounded by London, Tristram and Mill Streets and lots fronting Victoria Street to the north of Downtown Precinct, and the area bounded by Collingwood and Hill Street to the north, Tristram Street and Ruakiwi Road to the west, Anglesea Street to the east and Cobham Drive to the south
  • a vibrant, mixed-use residential centre, supporting small office and commercial activities within the heart of Hamilton.
  • Predominantly residential, mixed-use and multi-level development
  • ‘human-scale’, safe, pedestrian-friendly streets and open spaces, and high-quality, sustainable buildings that contribute positively to the public realm.
  • In conjunction with better connections to existing open space, the
    City Living Precinct will encourage new mid-block connections to break down the large
    blocks; pocket parks and community open space to support living and working in the area; and high-amenity apartment living as part of comprehensive, master-planned developments.

City Living Precinct

Although there’s already been some intensification in this area, what is envisaged for this area is perhaps the most transformational aspect of the central city zone plans. It lays the groundwork for accommodating substantial increase in Greater Hamilton’s population with minimal impact on the transport network. As we see in other cities, both here in NZ and worldwide, if work, entertainment and leisure activities are available in closer proximity, people will walk or cycle there. Indeed a few car-sharing clubs and/or Zipcar stations in the vicinity would probably entice many residents to live car-free. In a world where fuel is increasingly expensive and those entering the workforce are less interested in cars, this is exactly the type of development that is called for; Hamilton’s expansive suburbs will still be available for all who still prefer the traditional Kiwi style of habitation and commuting.

Ferrybank Precinct

  • bounded by Knox Street and Marlborough Place to the north, the Waikato River to the east, Bridge Street and the Waikato River to the south and Anglesea Street to the west
  • civic, community, cultural and tourism centre of Hamilton

Ferrybank Precinct

The plans for this area don’t envisage a great deal of change, perhaps reflecting the more subdued nature of this area and the need for development to be in keeping with existing character buildings. Enhancement of the river paths (along with what looks to be a cycle hire scheme in the mock-ups) will be most welcome.

Opoia Precinct

  • The Opoia precinct is located on the eastern bank of the Waikato River,
    just south of the Claudelands Bridge.
  • a small scale commercial setting with a unique riverside character that is complementary to the Downtown precinct. The Plan provides for the properties fronting the river to be redeveloped into a mix of ground level restaurants, cafes, small shops and offices, with apartments at upper levels.
  • Create opportunity for a mix of restaurants, cafes, small scale shops
    and offices, and apartments within a high amenity environment that complement activities in the Downtown precinct and capitalise on the unique riverside setting.

Opoia is probably an area ripe for some degree of smart intensification, and indeed there has already been a controversial proposal for apartment towers nearby, just north of Claudelands Bridge. There have some fairly recent medium-density/townhouse developments in the area already, but any redevelopment/intensification of the waterfront properties is likely to be some way off I’d imagine.

Your feedback wanted
We’d like to know if you were aware of the contents of the proposed district plan and the 2014/15 annual plan. Bearing in mind that the above plans are for a longer timeframe and the likelihood that they’ll be ‘watered down’ in implementation, what steps should council be making in the immediate 2014/15 plan towards them?

And overall, what do you think of these proposals? What have they got right? What if anything has been overlooked? What might be out of place?

As mentioned, we’ll continue to look at the 2014/15 plan in coming days with the hope of encouraging our readers to make submissions by the Friday closing date.

2 comments on “The draft 2014/15 Annual Plan: Central City zone

  1. Just had a look over with google maps. It’s astounding how much surface parking/car sales yards are north of London Street.

    Anyway, I can’t see much beyond the Opoia Precinct part talking about how the city integrates with the areas surrounding it (I’m thinking Hamilton East/Lake/Claudelands/Frankton specifically) which I think could be valuable.

  2. […] Continuous cycle of plans within plans isn’t a Plan, it’s an […]

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