Thames doesn’t seem to be feeling the Vibe
‘Open wound’: Days are numbered for Create the Vibe
A plan to liven up the Thames town centre has come to an end after just two years with the chief executive of the Thames Business Association describing it as “an open wound that is dividing our town”.
The Create the Vibe community space on Mary St will be removed following a unanimous decision by the Thames Community Board on August 2.
The Vibe was officially opened in March 2021 and a community space installed to create vitality as part of a “tactical urbanism” trial project funded mainly by Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency, at a cost of $356,000.
It was declared the Best Street in New Zealand at the Keep New Zealand Beautiful Awards in February 2022 but an online and street survey of 1500 people in June showed residents were far less enthusiastic about the space.
The Thames-coromandel District Council confirmed work would begin soon to remove the Vibe space and reopen Mary St to through traffic.
The council described the project as “a shared civic hub space for people to gather on Mary St at the corner with Pollen St — right in the middle of things where most people already are and where a good town square should be”.
It had three goals; to create a civic heart with vitality, provide a safe, accessible town centre, and create community ownership.
Of those surveyed, only 11 per cent said the Vibe encouraged them to spend more time in the town centre, 36 per cent said it encouraged them to spend less time there and 53 per cent said it made no difference to them.
While two-thirds of people felt safer from traffic as a result of the Vibe, after sunset the mood changed somewhat, with 58 per cent of people saying it was not a safe place to visit at night.
In voting to remove the space, community board members also asked the council to investigate a number of initiatives for the surrounding area including trafficcalming measures, reduced speed limits and improved crossings for pedestrians over Pollen St and Mary St.
Thames Business Association chief executive officer Sue Lewis O’halloran told the community board last week the Vibe had become a “divisive issue” in the business community and the community at large.
“It is an open wound that is dividing our town and impacting our businesses, financially and in some instances, and perhaps more importantly, in terms of the business owners or operators’ mental health and wellbeing,” O’halloran said.
Councillor Peter Revell told the board he thought it would be “crazy” to spend up to $1 million to make the Vibe permanent.
“One of the things, when you read the narrative about making it permanent, is what needs to happen; more music and arts performance, greater focus on making it safe, more food options, more events,” Revell said. “When I read that, you just sort of think somebody has got to drive that, that’s going to take energy and resource etc, in order to make that happen and you think what the trial has shown us is that kind of doesn’t happen and we don’t have budget to do that.”