Shot in the Arm for Kilbirnie Gets the Big Tick

20 August 2010

Wellington City Councillors are likely to give the go-ahead to the first stage of a multimillion dollar revitalisation of Kilbirnie town centre.

The decision, at yesterday's Council Strategy and Policy Committee, has to be confirmed at next week's meeting of the full City Council. Given the final nod, however, it will clear the way for work to start on the first improvements to the area.

It follows almost two years' worth of extensive public consultation - in which locals were asked to have their say on the plan.

The first upgrade work likely to be seen are 'streetscape' improvements on Bay Road and the western end of Coutts Street and a revamp of the busy bus stops at the intersection of Bay Road and Rongotai Road.

Some $190,000 has been set aside in 2010/11 for detailed planning and design, while $1.5 million will be available for the upgrade work itself in 2011/12.

The Council's Urban Development Portfolio Leader, Councillor Andy Foster, says Kilbirnie businesses and residents enthusiastically took part in community workshops and other consultation exercises to explore opportunities in the area. "The message we got was that people like the centre's village atmosphere and its community facilities but felt it was run-down and something needed to be done to improve they way it looks and feels.

"We created a leadership group made up of local business leaders and members of the residents' association and used them as a sounding board for our ideas. The plan is the result of that work.

"Kilbirnie is an important centre for Wellington City - and is on what the Council calls the 'growth spine' - the line of suburban centres, also including the Central City Johnsonville and Adelaide Road, where most population growth and development is expected to focus over the next few decades.

"The revitalisation plan - part of the Council's ongoing urban development strategy - is all about improving Kilbirnie as a town centre as well as making sure we cope with the expected population growth in the area. We also want to enhance Kilbirnie's role as a key hub for the southern and eastern suburbs."

The plan suggests a number of ideas to revitalise the town centre, including:

  • introducing a business improvement programme (such as a Main Street programme that has worked successfully in other locations throughout the country).
  • reinforcing Bay Road as the main street with shops and eateries and either redeveloping the community centre or moving it to the hub of community facilities in Kilbirnie Crescent.
  • reviving the current supermarket precinct and creating a new public space between Bay Road and Onepu Road.
  • redeveloping the bus barn site.
  • planting trees along Rongotai and Onepu roads.
  • weather-proofing bus shelters and investigation of creating a bus interchange.
  • lowering speed limits in Rongotai and Bay Roads and Coutts Street.
  • creating a community walkway and cycleway on the existing drainage easement to the south of the bus barns (Queens Drive to Tirangi Road).
  • creating medium-density town-house and apartment style housing.
  • stormwater improvements.

A high level of feedback was received on the draft plan with a total of 136 submissions and feedback forms from a range of individuals and organisations, and four petitions (one with 443 signatures). The feedback shows good support for the long-term vision for Kilbirnie town centre and the key development opportunities identified.

In terms of the revitalisation of the retail environment of the south end of Bay Road, 74% of responses agreed with the proposals to make this a focal area of the town centre. There was good support for:

  • more active building edges fronting the street
  • improved pedestrian access and facilities
  • new open spaces and street plantings
  • adequate car parking
  • opportunities for new retail, office and residential activities.

There was concern, however, that new development be of an appropriate scale and of good quality. Several people also commented that they would like more shelter provided for shoppers and felt this would also increase the attractiveness of the area as a shopping destination.

Mid-block Link between Bay and Onepu Roads

72% of responses agreed with the idea of having a new mid-block link / public space between Bay and Onepu roads. People commented that this would provide much needed access for pedestrians and cyclists, and would help create a focal point for the centre. It would also provide new spaces for retail and cafe activities over time, helping to enliven the area and support the growing population.

Coutts Street Revitalisation

There was very strong support for the proposals to revitalise Coutts Street (83% of responses agreed). The majority of people see this area as a 'dead' area which would benefit significantly from new development and supporting pedestrian and streetscape improvements. However, in terms of implementation priorities, many people commented that the improvement of this area should be of a lesser priority than the proposed improvements to Bay and Rongotai roads.

Bus Waiting Areas

There was also very strong support (92% of responses) for the proposals to improve the bus waiting areas in Kilbirnie town centre - both for existing public transport users, but also to encourage new patronage. There was also strong support for the creation of a bus interchange area on Rongotai Road to provide bus users with a good quality waiting area and bus service information.

Community Walkway / Cycleway

The proposal to develop a community walkway / cycleway along the existing drainage easement between Childers Terrace and Tirangi Road was strongly supported by submitters (76% of responses agreed). Many commented on the opportunity to turn this link into a linear park with trees and other plantings, including community gardens. Ensuring safe pedestrian and cycle crossings over road intersections was a key concern.

Townhouse and Apartment Living

There was a reasonable level of support (66%) for the proposals for increasing housing choice in and around the town centre area through increased town house and apartment living. Many saw this as key to ensuring Kilbirnie's vitality (keeping the centre alive day and night), as well as creating a more liveable and less car-dependent centre. Key concerns raised included the need for new developments to fit in with the surroundings, cater for a range of income groups, and be of a high quality, including good access to sunlight, public and outdoor recreational space, and adequate parking.

Proposed Bus Barns Redevelopment

Many submitters also commented on the proposal to redevelop the current 'bus barns' site with a mix of residential and retail activities. Many people were supportive of the concept (including a suggestion for a covered or semi-covered farmers market-type development), but want Council to ensure a high quality development that fits with its surroundings, and retains or references the historic background of the site.

Cr Foster says the plan will enable the Council to direct and prioritise its resources to achieve the greatest benefit for the Council and the community. It will also assist the private sector, by identifying opportunities for other parties to invest and partner in the revitalisation of the town centre. "As with all other centre plans Council cannot do this alone, and we will want to work closely with the private sector to ensure the vision for Kilbirnie is delivered."

Funding for future proposals that form part of the town centre plan will be considered by Councillors as part of the 2011 Annual Plan and 2012 long-term council community plan.

Copies of the Plan will be made available on the Kilbirnie Town Centre Plan projects page.