Tom Rowland is a Hamilton News reporter.

Garden Place concept makes progress

The concept for the redesign of Garden Place has moved to the next stage.
Photo / File
The concept for the redesign of Garden Place has moved to the next stage. Photo / File

Hamilton City Council has given cautious approval to move to the next stage of a redesign of Garden Place, which could still cost ratepayers up to $3 million.

Property investors Matt Stark, Steve McLennan and Brian White of Edwards White Architects presented their concept design to the council on Tuesday.

So far they have spent their own money, but hoped to find private funds for the project, with the support of Hamilton City Council.

An artist's impression of the Hamilton Garden Place concept from Matt Stark and Steve McLennan.
An artist's impression of the Hamilton Garden Place concept from Matt Stark and Steve McLennan.

Mr Stark said that the project would cost an estimated $3.8 million, plus consultation fees, with the developers looking at putting $800,000 or more for the redesign.

The Garden Place proposed design has been broken down into five sectors.

The new concept has a lawn area, with an event centre opposite that will be used for the Hamilton Christmas tree.

Included in the concept is a playground, a sculpture area along with a performance stage.
Gardens will be planted around pedestrians paths.

Council voted to have the chief executive prepare a proposal on the Garden Place Redesign concept, for consideration for the 2018/28 year plan, with a decision being made on October 18.

The proposed design brought mixed comments from the councillors.

Cr Leo Tooman said he could not understand the point of adding a car park to the proposed concept.

Currently in the design, two new roads will run either side of Garden Place with car parks added to those roads.

"I can't understand why this council is so obsessed with car parks," Cr Tooman said.

"We've got a great public transport system here in New Zealand, and we're trying to get the public to use that, and at the same time creating more car parks."

Cr Tooman also raised concerns over combining pedestrians and roads.

"We seem to change Garden Place every 10 years.

"I think last time it was 2010, and I don't know why it is but we just seem to be hell-bent on changing it."

"Speaking to members of our community out there, they just keep saying why can't you jokers make a decision and leave things alone."

Garden Place has had three major re-developments.

In the 1960s, the centre of Hamilton was a car park catering for more than 50 cars and then in 1976 it was turned into a large green space.

In 2010, under mayor Bob Simcock, Garden Place was transformed into today's design.
Cr Garry Mallett was in favour of taking the concept forward, but was not sure how well it would work compared to past designs.

"No one denies that we need more people in here, that we need more car parks," Cr Mallett said.

"If the problem is car parking, put some bloody car parks in, don't go half way."

"I think what happens to the CBD library is going to matter. I think there are much better uses for an old obsolete technology that delivers books."

Mr Stark said that re-opening of the library should not be seen as a priority to activate the space.

"Everybody has mentioned that since the library has closed, there have been a lot fewer intimidating people in that space," Mr Stark said.

"It has contributed more positively to Garden Place."

Mayor Andrew King said that Garden Place had not been done over and over as some had said.

"The worst thing you can do about property is do nothing, and this is currently not working, so let's do something."

Cr Angela O'Leary was not convinced that the property owners around Garden Place were interested in investing due to being overseas.

"In 2010, nothing changed in Garden Place. Unless the building owners are going to redevelop, I don't believe this will change either," Cr O'Leary said. "I'm not convinced that $3 million of ratepayers' money is going to attract new retailers into that space."

Cr Mark Bunting voted in favour of progressing the concept to the next stage, but was hesitant about the project going ahead.

"We will never get it right in public perception, so we need to park that thought straight away," Cr Bunting said. "I'm not a fan of parking in Garden Place, I'm not particularly a fan of the design, but I'm a fan of how it has been presented through the private sector."

The vote was carried nine to two in favour, with Cr Angela O'Leary and Cr Leo Tooman opposed.

Cr Phillip Yeung and Paula Southgate were absent.

- Hamilton News

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