All eyes on redesign
After the release of a strategic framework last week, the revitalisation plan for Porirua City has finally become tangible.
The new set of priorities and timetable for development laid down by the subcommittee provides direction and scope to the long-gestating project that is both pragmatic and purposeful.
Given the years of, at least perceived, inaction, the immediate talking point is the first stage of physical redesign: the streamside plaza and park, improved pedestrian connections from the train station to city centre; and encouraging eateries to populate this new district.
More important though are the ideological shifts in the framework’s priorities.
Porirua City Council will no longer wait for private investors to come to the party – it will instead implement design changes to buildings and spaces it either owns or has investment from willing partners.
This essentially kicks to touch the muchmaligned Canopies shopping area, the previous focus of most revitalisation plans and debates.
Buildings under the Canopies are in desperate need of investment from landlords and quality retail tenants, and, despite attracting its share of beggars, bad buskers, truants and vagrants, it remains the city’s heart in terms of foot traffic (by locals) and social engagement.
I’ve always felt the injection of vitality, decent shopping and some God-damn sunlight to this part of town was integral to any CBD facelift, and perhaps it still is.
But it felt like a weight had been lifted to learn Ferry Place and Lyttelton Avenue would be the initial epi-centre of improvements.
It makes sense. Why start a 30-year master plan by confronting the most challenging obstacle, one loaded with a decade’s worth of negative baggage? Ferry Place is a clean slate and, as Councillor Ken Douglas said upon the framework’s release, the plaza concept is commercially realistic and can be achieved within budget.
Of course, the devil will be in the details. For now, we are being sold a ‘‘bustling’’ streamside plaza, permanent and mobile food outlets, and strong pedestrian access to key areas of the city, like the North City mall.
Take out the stream and I wouldn’t be surprised if Cobham Court was sold in a similar way when the Canopies went up.
Matthew Dallas, Editor.