Tue, Mar 26, 2024 1:44 PM

Case for joint library and civic facility released at summit


Sara Hollyman

Nelson City Council needs to “be bold” was the key message from its chief executive to a room full of those seeking to revitalise the city.

A group of like-minded individuals gathered together on Tuesday to discuss the future of Nelson. What Sam Ng described as Nelson 2.0... what is the future of the city?

Key figures from big and small organisations from both the private and public sector packed out the 130-capacity gathering in the Trafalgar Centre’s northern extension for the City Revitalisation Summit hosted by Nelson City Council on Tuesday.

As part of the summit Nelson City Council revealed its strategic case for investing in a new library and community hub, combined with a new civic centre to replace Civic House.

“We’ve got staff working in quite frankly unsatisfactory conditions,” chief executive Nigel Philpott says. “It us not appropriate for what they do.”

By combining a new library and community hub with civic offices, elected member facilities, and a customer service centre, Nigel says the plan offers a strategic blend of innovation and practicality that endeavours to enhance service delivery, modernise essential infrastructure, and revitalise the city centre.

The indicative business case, produced by TwentyTwo Independent Property Advisers, and options presented by Dean Croucher, underscore the urgency and potential inherent in pushing forward with a new civic investment.

Prior to the presentation of the business case, individual panels presented throughout the day discussing revitalisation in an economic context, how to make Nelson a great place to invest and how arts institutions can help contribute to such revitalisation.

The summit also acted as a networking event where community members began to discuss ideas on how to improve the city.

Infometrics senior economist Nick Brunsdon kicked off the first panel session sharing that Nelson sits almost at the bottom of the table for consumer spending growth across the country for the 2023 year.

Ideas were then broached on what could improve the city.

Nelson architect William Samuels spoke on behalf of What-if Nelson sharing ideas that had been put forward to the group including a Nelson Market Hall extending small business incubators that utilise the Saturday Market by either repurposing an existing building or space.

Challenges discussed by others ranged from the cost of construction and uncertainty around climate change and what it means for the central business district.

Ian Williams, owner of two hospitality businesses and president of Hospitality Association Nelson, says he would like to see more from the city’s private landlords.

He estimates it will be another three years until the region’s hospitality businesses recover from downturn through Covid.

“If you ask younger entrepreneurs if its worth starting and operating a business here they will probably say ‘no’, we need to turn that into a ‘yes’.”

Steve Baigent, who began his property portfolio 40 years ago, discussed challenges on investment and touched on Nelson City Council’s “cavalier approach” to parking in the CBD.

Wakatu Incorporation property manager, Andrew Clinton, wanted certainty around climate change and how the council will respond to it.

“Are we staying in the CBD or are we slowly managing our retreat?”

Cawthron Institute chief executive, Volker Kuntzsch, spoke of how people living here still don’t know what Cawthron does – despite having been based in the region for 103 years.

He left food for thought with the question: “What does Nelson actually stand for?”

From construction to technology and education, retail and hospitality, one thing was clear, Nelson is home to great people doing great things, but the region needs to tell its story better.

Sign up to our newsletter to get the week's top stories from Nelson/Tasman delivered to your inbox each Friday morning

Nelson App is owned by Top South Media. a locally owned media company.