In a recent story published in HB Today, valuer Pat Turley said the outlook for the Hastings CBD was "looking up", but the headline for the story said Napier retail sector driving region's growth.
The story, especially the headline, is misleading. I agree Napier is going well and the CBD does perform very well but so does the Hastings CBD and its large format retail centres.
Hastings is the service town for the region and in my opinion the economic engine room. It's claimed that there is about $600m in construction going on across the region and currently a majority of this is being undertaken in Hastings.
For example the HB Opera House is a $30m+ redevelopment, the Hastings Health Centre is in excess of $20m and in the pipeline is a major redevelopment of the former HB Today building in Queen St. The airport is also undergoing a $20m expansion and it sits on neutral ground – with both the Hastings and Napier councils as shareholders.
Napier's turn will come though in construction with a large format retail development getting under way in 2019, a new aquatic complex as well as the visionary National Aquarium in the pipeline.
However, back to the CBDs. Mr Turley is using pedestrian counts and rents as an indicator of performance and that's fine, but there has been a significant change in the retail scene that has seen Hastings evolve over the past few years.
Nonetheless, the retail spend for the September quarter – according to the Marketview report is $50m (up $3m from same time last year) in the CBD. This excludes big box retail which is another $17m.
In fact there's little difference in retail spend across the two cities. Hastings district retail spend is $202,444,879 and Napier is $203,138,763, a difference of just $693,884. Year on year growth in Hastings is at 8.2 per cent with Napier at 5.3 per cent.
In Hastings we now have a very defined east and west CBD offering. To the west of the town clock is the main retail heart anchored by Farmers and with a fantastic range of local retailers and national chains.
Across the railway lines is Hastings' entertainment and hospitality offerings. The block that is home to artisan bakery Ya Bon, cafés like Cupple and Cornucopia and nightlife such as The Common Room and Fun Buns has truly transformed this area. It has an amazing character – very authentic and eclectic while at the same time friendly and welcoming.
The council, with support of the local business association, landlords and tenants, is committed to creating a work, live and play CBD.
With the Opera House complex opening towards the end of 2019, council has set aside $4.5m in its Long Term Plan to create an entertainment precinct that stretches from the railway lines down to the Opera House.
The plans for this are exciting and I am sure will attract new hospitality offerings and create a safe and enjoyable place to be in the evening.
Council has already done some cosmetic improvements in Queen St and Karamu Rd and is looking at options for the central mall area. In the Thompson Suits block a new laneway will open before Christmas, which will provide a new place to enjoy the sun with a coffee as well as provide an important connector to car parking.
A further laneway will be created in the Farmers block and more are being explored.
As well as new retail, council continues to look at opportunities for hotels and is working with private enterprise to make this happen. The opening of the Opera House and conferencing facilities will again support the business case for this.
Hastings will also be the new Eastern Districts Police HQ, which is another multi-million dollar construction project and will be the base for over 200 personnel.
Lastly HDC is looking to make it easier for people to live in the CBD, by amending regulations for second level or higher apartment style living.
So there's plenty of sting in Hastings. It's abuzz with retail, hospitality and construction activity.
* Damon Harvey is a Hastings district councillor