Central city transformation on track
The most recent survey into Hamilton’s central city shows confidence that the Covid scare won’t derail the CBD’s continuing transformation.
As cities grow and expand outwards, the nature and purpose of their Central Business Districts has changed, leading to strenuous efforts in many older localities to repurpose and revitalise their central areas. The same process is happening in Hamilton.
The biannual Hamilton CBD Retail Occupancy Survey, undertaken between CBRE Research and NAI Harcourts, to the end of June, shows a slight decrease in retail vacancies and a continuing busy scene in refurbishment of existing space, much of it changing larger spaces into smaller spaces.
According to Harcourts Commercial managing director Mike Neale and Hamilton Central Business Association general manager Vanessa Williams, the trends illuminated in the survey indicate a continuing transformation that is making a profound difference to the nature, size, and style of the business activity and the population mix in the precinct.
Williams said the whole social environment of the CBD was changing with the continuing addition of apartments and townhouses in complexes only a few minutes’ walk from work places, eateries, supermarkets and key transport facilities.
The CBD experienced a surge of around 25,000 people during the Monday to Friday working week but during the weekends the situation changed.
Many people visited from outside the CBD, in particular from
Hamilton’s southern suburbs.
Williams said for the central city to develop, it required numbers of people, and facilities to attract and keep those people.
As a response, many new commercial premises were putting in their own cafes and convenience stores to support their workforce.
Neale said the CBD was continuing to evolve. A lot of vacant property was being sold to owneroccupiers, including new immigrants who added to the variety and attractiveness of the area.
‘‘We are seeing a fair amount of demolition of poorer buildings and hard-to-tenant space,’’ Neale said.
‘‘Niche operators and foodie destinations are creating an environment that enclosed malls struggle to provide, supported by surrounding bars, hospitality and accommodation, which is changing the whole character of the place.’’
The CBRE/NAI Harcourts survey stated that while there was no new-build construction recorded in the CBD, several large developments were under way, including the replacement of the former Munns Menswear in Victoria St, destroyed by fire late last year, and the long awaited Regional Theatre, where nearly 800 square metres of occupied space was taken out in the first half of the year, doubling the area currently under refurbishment as part of the project.
In its summary, the survey states the vacancy rate for prime retail space continues to drop, and lower-grade retail remains less attractive.
However, the detail of individual occupier moves – why operators are moving in or out of premises – indicates progress in the long-term transformation of the CBD retail market from one dominated by large retail spaces and occupiers reliant on plentiful parking, to one centred on a denser population core supported by a greater range and quality of retail.
While the CBRE NAI Harcourts December survey predicted the outlook for Hamilton retail as positive, the Juneend survey indicated the Covid pandemic would impact retailers and dent progress, but Hamilton’s CBD retail market was expected to adapt to changing times.