As of August last year, just 73 people lived within 500 metres of the Nelson CBD, compared to 5600 people who come into the city to work.
That number will rise if property developer Gaire Thompson has his way, as he plans to turn the former Briscoes site in Montgomery Square into mixed commercial and residential property.
“It’ll be commercial underneath, retail or something, and then a level of office spaces, and then two floors of accommodation.”
The development even included a rooftop garden area, and Thompson said he was hoping to attract good retail shops for the lower floor.
A “liveable centre” is one of six key milestones the Nelson City Council is aiming for in its City Centre Programme Plan, looking at making the CBD a place that people not only want to spend more time in, but also want and are able to live in.
A key difficulty for people who want to live in the centre city, or even in the fringes, is the lack of options. However, some developers are seizing on what they perceive as a shift in attitude at the council to build more housing options close to or in the central city.
Those developments include the SHA apartments on Haven Rd, but Thompson’s Montgomery Square development will be right in the heart of the city.
He said there had been over the years “a complete change of attitude” at the council when it came to inner city living options.
“We were one of the first ones to have accommodation in the centre city. In one case, they just tried to make it so awkward, in fact they tried to take us to court at one point.”
He said that was many years ago, and the council “seem to be keen on it now”.
He said his latest project had resource consent issued and was “pretty well-received”, and was taking advantage of the council’s development contributions waiver for housing units in the central city.
“We think it’s the sort of thing that could even suit elderly people who want to live in town … we think there’s a bit of a market for that.”
He said he had other residential properties in the central city area, and they were “not difficult” to rent out.
“There’s normally quite a lot of interest in them and the tenants often end up staying for a long time.”
Councillor and central city working group chairman Pete Rainey said the “geographical challenges” of Nelson meant intensification was a must, one way or another.
“There’s only so many valleys we can squeeze into before we’ve got to go up, not out,” he said.
“The Government has given a clear indication … that they expect councils to step up and put levers in place to encourage intensification.”
Rainey said he was “encouraged” by the direction the council was moving in, but thought it could be more ambitious.
“I’m trying to push a plan that I’m calling ‘House 1000’, to house 1000 people in the central city or fringe in 10 years.
“If we have a really clearly articulated target, we can actually get on and set about finding out how to achieve it. I’m quite excited by what some developers are suggesting.”