Development Champion – CBD & Heritage

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Building brought back to original frontage

The images above and below show the difference once a full restoration of a building frontage is completed!

Several weeks ago I travelled to Dunedin to the Local Government annual conference and included a visit to their heritage precinct and talked to developers and staff at Dunedin City Council.

Dunedin has many old buildings, with large inner city blocks with decaying empty warehouses. These areas have looked sad for years and with earthquake awareness and expensive development requirements, they were standing empty. All this is in the past however and I was inspired to see the marked change underway with multitudes of buildings being redeveloped and entire areas coming alive.

Dunedin adopted a Heritage Strategy in 2007, which included rates remissions, building frontage grants and the employment of Heritage planner Dr Glen Hazelton to act as a champion between Council planning and building control and the developers.

The developers appreciated the rates relief and direct contribution to reinstate the frontages, but their main enthusiasm was directed to Glen’s work to find practical solutions so development was affordable. There is nothing nasty about any of the developments; in fact they are beautiful with inner city living in classy character apartments.

Dunedin undertook a similar study to our own Town Centre Regeneration plan, with the same consultants Urbanism Plus and whilst I had heard of Dunedin’s success I was rather cynical about the reality. What a pleasure it is to see their astonishing success. My discussions with their Mayor Dave Cull further confirmed that Council’s financial investment was very modest at only around $1million in all this time, and the result is hundreds of millions in private redevelopment.

I recently attended a discovery and planning meeting between developers, realestate agents, Mainstreet Wanganui, Council, Whanganui Regional Heritage Trust and the Earthquake Prone Buildings Taskforce. We are all working together to find practical solutions to creating the right environment for redevelopment in our own town centre and are hoping to host Dr Hazelton in Whanganui for his advice. I can only encourage Council to employ our own town centre champion to assist Whanganui’s redevelopment without delay.

Redevelopment of old buildings not only saves the wonderful character of our town centre it helps owners to realise value in their stagnant properties, attract great tenants on bottom floors and apartments on upper floors and bring economic viability and vibrancy back to our town centre. It’s a win/win.

Photograph of the building before redevelopment