Hutt at Heart

A riverside city that never sleeps

A dynamic 24-hour city nestled in the last bend of Te Awa Kairangi/Hutt River before it reaches the harbour. A belt of park and wetlands offering places to swim, wander, workout or listen to live music.

A network of laneways, home to boutique bars, cafes and niche shops adding an alternative edge to the heart of the city. A captivating cosmopolitan centre drawing in visitors from around the region and beyond.

While it may sound like fantasy to some, a recently completed Hutt City Council project has taken the city’s vision of breathing new life into the central city with the river as its centrepiece, and added both a comprehensive strategy and the essential detail to make the vision a reality.

Under the leadership of Council’s Urban Design Manager Paki Maaka, a team of urban planners, economists, infrastructure experts and local and regional stakeholders have built on three decades of formal planning and public engagement aimed at revitalising the central city and turning it towards the river.

The primary aim of the Central City Transformation Plan (CCTP) is to provide a framework of ideas and initiatives to support discussion around the future development of the central city over 20-40 years.  – a resource for the community, businesses, Council and other interested organisations.

Paki says it also strengthens the case for infrastructure investment and private investment in central Lower Hutt, including highlighting key development opportunities.

Broadly, the CCTP sees the central city’s future as more residential, hospitality, activity and recreation-based than the traditional street retail focus.

Unsurprisingly, it identifies RiverLink and the riverside promenade as the one opportunity on the horizon to revitalise a central city firmly anchored on the river.

Mike Cullen, a consultant who worked on the CCTP, and specialises in the economic aspects of urban planning, has described RiverLink as the “switch” that will turn on the central city’s economy after years of underperformance.

“The ultimate objective of the plan is to provide the inspiration for people to visit the central city as much to do stuff as to get stuff, with the river and its edges integrated contributors to the experience of the CBD.”

To do this, he says the central city has to effectively pivot 90 degrees. The central city’s development has been marked by ample north-west streets but few running east-west, effectively cutting off the city from the river. So an important aspect of the CCTP is the introduction of new east-west streets and lanes – including an extension of Laings Road – connecting Riddiford Gardens and the Civic Precinct through the central city core to the river.

The CCTP recommends a range of initiatives and projects – some already being considered as well as many new ideas. They include:

  • gradually concentrating retail into a pedestrian-orientated area bordered by Dudley and Margaret streets, Queens Drive and Laings Road
  • bringing Alicetown and Melling into the central city’s redesign by connecting the two areas with a second proposed pedestrian and cycle bridge and taking a fresh look at residential development on the west bank
  • turning the network of laneways into ribbons of niche shops, cafes and bars
  • creating a clear and legible route between Ewen and Melling bridges along Queens Drive to improve getting around the city centre, especially for visitors
  • a park-like extension of Dowse Square, framed by residential buildings and brought firmly into the central city core with new connections
  • better connect the commercial precinct north of Melling Link by removing the roundabouts, once the new bridge is completed, comprehensive tree planting and over time develop the area more intensively, in line with the rest of the central city.

The CCTP is not a prescriptive document saying what must be done. It is a reference – a guide to achieving the city’s objectives for the central city in a strategic and coordinated way.

More information and the CCTP document can be found here.

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