Cen­tral city trans­for­ma­tion on track

Waikato Times - - Commercial Property - Geoff Lewis

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.

Har­courts Com­mer­cial man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Mike Neale and Hamil­ton Cen­tral Busi­ness As­so­ci­a­tion gen­eral man­ager Vanessa Wil­liams.

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