Ashburton CBD celebrations on ice however retailers buoyant

The finish line for Ashburton’s multi-million dollar CBD makeover is in sight.

Ashburton CBD’s multi-million dollar upgrade is nearing completion.
Photo: Adam Burns / LDR

However, the planned celebrations for the opening of the redesigned city center have been put on hold due to Covid-19 restrictions.

A $ 15 million downtown Ashburton revitalization has been in the works since January 2020 and is now more than 95 percent complete.

A spokesman for Ashburton County Council said it will not host a formal ribbon cutting and ceremonial event as originally planned due to the restrictions imposed by Covid-19.

Regulations for events that take place outdoors, but not on an event location of alarm level 2, must follow the rules for social get-togethers and are limited to 100 people “in a defined free space”.

Ashburton Councilor Carolyn Cameron said it was disappointing that the milestone could not be celebrated.

“It’s incredibly disappointing and I don’t get it,” she said.

“But those are the rules and the council has to obey the rules.”

During a recent meeting with local retailers, city officials said it would not be in the best interest to spend money on the CBD Christmas opening celebrations, “but use the money elsewhere.”

An event in March 2022 was proposed by the Council’s Economic Development Team.

The installation of parking sensors across the CBD has also been postponed due to the Covid-19 lockdowns in Auckland, with the sensors expected to be rolled out in the new year.

Most of the project will be completed in the next few days, according to city officials.

Ashburton locals enjoy the sun in the CBD.
Photo: Adam Burns / LDR

Efforts on the project were stepped up in response to the Delta outbreak earlier this year when it was thought that the final level 4 lockdown would cause delays and more headaches for troubled retailers.

Road works and limited access to the city center have caused significant disruption for CBD traders, but many are now feeling lively.

Florist Samantha Trott said she noticed an increase in pedestrian traffic around her store.

“People are a little more optimistic and happier now that it’s almost done,” she said.

Somerset Grocer co-owner Mark Milmine was pleased but said he hoped the upgrades would continue activities in “the heart of the city”.

Fashion boutique co-owner Nadine Barron said the council allowed the store to place a clothes rack on the outside pavement amid concerns that it would violate a trade code.

“With all the trouble we went through (during the upgrades), they decided they were okay with it,” she said.

“I wanted to make our shop look nice.”

Work along East Street is largely complete, with work having been carried out in small areas around the intersections of Tankred and Burnett and East Street for the past few days, a council spokesman said.

“All remaining pavement and garden planting will be completed early next week.”

Havelock Street reopened to traffic and pedestrians after most of the work was completed.

A concrete slab to support a Christmas tree was also poured with the tree, which is scheduled to be installed “in the next week or so”.

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