Cheers for Chamber’s plan to fight for the CBD

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Two big landlords and a veteran retailer have one thing in common – applause for a new initiative to spruce up downtown Queenstown.

Announced last week, the joint initiative by Queenstown’s Chamber of Commerce and the Queenstown Lakes District Council has already appointed a working party to establish a “business improvement district” (BID).

The group of landlords, retailers and hospitality and accommodation operators will first survey CBD businessfolk about parking, traffic management, light-ing, signage, urban design and the retail mix.

The initiative comes after concerns aired in Mountain Scene last year by former local realtor Doug Jacques, who feared Frankton could become the new CBD if downtown Queenstown didn’t lift its game.

With seven CBD build-ings worth about $60 million, Skyline Enterprises is a major downtown commercial landlord – and Skyline boss Jeff Staniland admits the resort centrepiece needs attention.

“The CBD is a bit rough in places,” he says.

“We’re competing against the best in the world so one can never be complacent.”

Staniland “supports keeping the CBD looking and performing well” but admits he’s “unsure what the best mechanism is”.

Fellow landlord Johnny Stevenson, who fronts a commercial property consortium and is on the new working party, doesn’t believe the CBD is getting tatty – but it needs work.

Stevenson: “We can do better – we’ve had some really good initiatives but we’re only part-way there.

“We’ve gone a long way with landscaping, lighting and even amenities,” he says. “Everything we’ve started is all heading in the right direction.”

Stevenson hopes the CBD initiative results in “the grand plan – a master planning document”.

The proposed Lakeview convention centre is also a must to anchor the CBD, Stevenson says: “That’s our missing link.”

Past council bosses have postulated about the CBD becoming a pedestrian precinct, with goods vehicles restricted to dawn deliveries – is Stevenson in favour?

“No, you’d have to be really careful with that,” he says.

“Traffic adds a unique element to Queenstown – I think Beach Street works really well.”

The CBD landlord is philosophical about Frankton Flats retail growth.

“It’s an inevitable trend,” Stevenson says.

“We need Remarkables Park, we need Five Mile.

“There’s no way we could have those big footprint developments in the middle of town – it wouldn’t work.”

However, Stevenson’s also adamant the Queenstown CBD area must draw locals as well as tourists.

“That’s the unique thing about Queenstown,” he says, “the locals and tourists completely blend in.

“The tourists want to go where the locals are going, I think we should be catering for everybody.”

Veteran pharmacist Kim Wilkinson – also a working party member – sides with Stevenson on three core issues.

“Pedestrianising and taking out the traffic wouldn’t assist the CBD in any way whatsoever,” Wilkinson says adamantly.

“I don’t believe we have traffic issues in the central streets of the CBD – we just don’t.”

Wilkinson also doesn’t buy into targeting specific groups of shoppers.

“The goal should be to present to both locals and visitors the best possible face we can.”

Wilkinson, who maintains a Lakeview convention centre is “very important for the CBD”, also enthuses about the new downtown initiative: “It’s been a long while since the CBD’s been looked at.”

The retail veteran confesses to having a pet CBD issue he’d like to see addressed: “When [shoppers] are desperately searching for a carpark, we have the public Church St carpark being used privately by business people,” he says.

“I believe it should be freed up [for tourists and shoppers] and all those businesspeople should be in the Man St carpark where there’s plenty of parking.”