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Diversity the key to a full and vibrant CBD

Diversity is the key to a full and vibrant CBD in the face of changing business environments, Rotorua Mayor Steve Chadwick says.

Rotorua’s 2018 CBD office and retail vacancy survey reveals a stable picture that aligns with current economic indicators but there is a need to rethink what a CBD should be, she says.

“A vibrant inner city is a place where people work, eat, meet, take part in activities and do business. All of that has social benefit for the community as well as being good for businesses and generating jobs.”

Results of the annual Telfer Young survey, which is undertaken in December each year, show a slight increase in vacant retail space but a further drop in vacancy levels for office space.

As at December 2018 office vacancy levels were at their lowest level since the survey began in 1989, dropping to 15.5% (vacant space), down from 16% in 2017.

Within the retail sector there was a slight increase in the number of vacant shops with 59 vacancies, five more than in 2017. This represents a vacancy rate of 11.3% or an occupancy rate of 88.7%.

On a floor area basis the amount of vacant retail space increased but Telfer Young noted this is largely due to Rotorua Library moving out of its temporary Amohia Street premises to return to Te Aka Mauri.

“We’re aware of ongoing movements in our CBD that have already seen one vacancy refilled since the survey and will see other currently vacant retail space also filling up again, so that’s positive,” Mayor Chadwick says.

“Our local challenges are not unique. Towns and cities around the country are faced with the challenge of considering what a CBD should be. We have a large CBD and we need to stop thinking about it as being just about shops. Our CBD is already a diverse place – as well as offices, shops, cafes and restaurants there are also churches, educational organisations, arts and culture centres, health-related hubs, voluntary service hubs, markets, a park at Te Aka Mauri and hotels. And there is room for more of all of that. There are also opportunities for more inner city living, something we would encourage property owners to consider and something we refer to in our Spatial Plan.”

The Mayor says the decrease in vacant space in Rotorua’s CBD during the past few years has happened despite new buildings being constructed in the inner city and despite an increase in retail and hospitality offerings outside of the CBD – such as at Trade Central, Fairy Springs and eastside.

“So that is a positive and Telfer Young notes that in the early part of 2019 confidence and demand in the inner city still seems high which is also heartening.

“Local businesses and retailers doing well is good for the whole district and Council will keep doing what it can to create a positive business environment. Council and businesses need to keep reviewing what they do and how they do it to ensure we remain relevant in the face of ongoing change,” Mayor Chadwick says.

“I believe we do have a more vibrant inner city now. Improvements and changes that have been undertaken are about making it a more attractive place for people to be, for the benefit of our local businesses.

“While some business people say things are tough for them right now there are also others who are optimistic and doing well. We want everyone operating in our CBD to be doing well and Council will continue its efforts for ongoing improvement and vibrancy aimed at bringing people in to our inner city. Positive partnerships with our local business people will remain crucial to achieving shared goals.

“Revitalising our CBD continues to be a priority and while we’ve achieved a lot in recent years, we have not stopped working on it.”

Mayor Chadwick says the vision is to create a great environment that people want to spend time in and we want all of our businesses to be doing well because that’s good for the whole community.

“Council can’t do it alone – we need inner city representatives and other stakeholders to keep working with us to identify and work through opportunities. We’re open to new ideas and would be happy to work with inner city representatives, as we did with the inner city retail group when there was one.”

What’s been done to date includes:

· Improved intersections
· Art installations and alleyway art
· Increased CCTV and lighting in the CBD
· Inner city markets aimed at attracting people into the CBD
· Revamped heart of the central city (Te Manawa)
· Eat Streat
· Jean Batten Park expansion and revamp
· Summer activation (eg live entertainment)
· CBD safety initiative with police

Key findings and TelferYoung observations:

• 20 of the 59 vacant shops are in the Hinemoa Arcade building (former Post Office building) between Hinemoa and Pukuatua Streets, where most sites have been vacant since its re-development in 2011.
• The lowest vacancy rates are in Rotorua Central Mall, Eat Streat and on Fenton Street surrounding the i-Site.
• Key vacancies that have contributed to the increase in retail space include relocation of the library back to Te Aka Mauri from its temporary premises.
• In the office sector, the overall vacancy rate fell to a low of 15.5%, down from 16% in 2017 (18.6% in 2016, 15.3% in 2015, 18.8% in 2014).

The 2018 Telfer Young CBD vacancy survey report is available on Council’s website at the following links: CBD vacancy survey 2018 Part 1 and CBD vacancy survey 2018 Part 2

Or go to the news section on www.telferyoung.com

Go to THIS LINK on Council's website to view the latest (December 2018) Infometrics quarterly economic report for Rotorua.

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