Whatever Happened to the CBD?

By Brian Squair, Senior Principal, Chow:Hill Architects

The Central Business District, as we have known it, is quite probably a thing of the past. The Covid-19 pandemic has merely accelerated the changing character of downtowns amidst poorly rented lower-grade commercial buildings, infrastructure under-investment, cheaper land elsewhere and remote working practices. Prior to the pandemic we were seeing an increase in work mobility, (planned) residential sprawl to the fringe (requiring services and amenities), but we also experienced the redevelopment of some key buildings in the Central City by a few well-funded developers.

I recall the 1980s when we would all “go to town” on a Friday night or Saturday morning and it was an excursion with mum or dad and latterly a hang-out with school mates. Mid-week the CBD was primarily for business, banking, post office and occasional scoping-out for a new piece of furniture that would be purchased on the Saturday morning.

Over the last 20 years or so, and through a couple of recessions, we have witnessed the increasing number of poor quality or poorly maintained commercial buildings, the decentralisation of large retail outlets, the rise of online purchasing and the move to remote working. These changes have placed great pressure on sustainable city centres.

If we haven’t yet, we need to reconsider the way the Central City works in the light of change.

Rather than predict CBD doom, there is, I believe, an incredible opportunity for a reset of the Central City and its relationship to the city at large. It is time to imagine a new model for growth, one that is more inclusive, resilient, sustainable and healthy. The foundations of this reset include the issues of affordability, talent, workplace, public realm, built environment and the economics of real estate.

Read the full opinion piece here.

The Waikato is Absolutely Booming

By Don Good, CEO, Waikato Chamber of Commerce

The Waikato is booming compared to the rest of New Zealand, and it’s based on solid foundations.

Our confidence in our economy was clearly articulated in the recent Westpac Mcdermott Miller Regional Economic Confidence Survey. We sit at a strong plus-16% net confidence for the September quarter, with every other region except Wellington at negative net confidence.

So why are we confident? One reason is the ‘trickle around’ theory that goes: one year’s great dairy payout results in three years of economic growth for the Waikato.

With now two and potentially three years of strong dairy returns, the export dollar foundations of the Waikato are looking strong.

However, we’re no longer solely reliant on dairy. We’re a region of manufacturers that are growing: you see the likes of Gallaghers, Prolife Foods, Profile Group, Porters, Power Farming, and recently you see Sleepyhead looking to set up in Ohinewai.

We have world-class tech firms such as Company-X, IT Partners, The Instillery, Aware Group, Shift72 and SkyPoint Technologies employing talented graduates out of The University of Waikato and Wintec Te Pukenga.

With a benign geography, we’re a region with rapid growth in sectors such as health, agtech, education, professional services, and importantly logistics.

The latter is evidenced by Tainui Group Holding’s wonderful Ruakura Superhub, Hamilton Airport’s Titanium Park development, the University’s Pa project, Innovation Park’s recently opened building, ACC’s new building on Collingwood St, as well as Foster’s Union Square development that houses Rabobank’s headquarters.

The evidence is in concrete. Businesses and their people are migrating to the Waikato.

Waikato is confident in our future, which attracts others seeking opportunity to live and grow. We have many major industries as our foundation; we have room to grow.

We have a chance to avoid congestion that so besets others. Our geography actually gives us a competitive advantage.

The Mighty Waikato will be a powerhouse of the New Zealand economy long into the future, as well as being a great place to live, to bring up families, to work, prosper and play.


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