A $4.5 million plan to bring more vibrancy to Hastings' city centre could be a "massive" missed opportunity if it does not allow cars to cross the railway track "dissecting" its main street, a Havelock North commercial property expert says.
A submission from independent property valuers Turley and Co, to yesterday's Hastings District Council Long Term Plan hearings, suggested that the city's pedestrianised central mall, which cuts the city's main thoroughfare in half, should be reworked to allow one-way vehicular traffic.
"The Hastings pedestrian mall alongside a railway line created in the 1980s was a mistake that needs to be reworked," Turley and Co general manager Pat Turley said.
"We firmly believe the mall should be remodelled to lightly allow one-way cars, like Emerson St in Napier, that is successful people-centric but (has been) allowing cars for 20 years."
The existing situation had disadvantaged the CBD's main street length - a situation further "exacerbated" by a railway "dissecting the core of the city".
"This results in suboptimal city-centre vibrancy," Turley said.
He acknowledged the issues with the railway line, which would need the Heretaunga St rail crossing to be reinstated. While that would "not be easily moved", the higher prime mainstreet rents in Napier's Emerson St were proof of the success of that design.
"Councillors please need to be brave and make the best decision for the heart of Hastings that could be substantially more vibrant and commercially more successful," he said.
The council's draft LTP sets aside $4.5m over a four-year period to increase the vibrancy of the CBD, with proposals at present including an enhanced central mall, more outdoor seating provision and more vibrant facades along Heretaunga St East, as well as a civic square upgrade.
However, Turley called for the council to "pause" and "rethink" on the details.
"Without lightly reconnecting car traffic for Russell St through to Market St – through the current mall roading area, we think Hastings District Council's welcome and substantial proposed investment in reworking the city centre mall would likely be misdirected and a massive missed opportunity."
He suggested the idea of a "hybrid mall", already popular in the Queenstown, Christchurch and Melbourne CBDs, be put forward as part of wider consultations with city-centre businesses to come up with a winning layout design for the city centre.