Retailers are “cautiously optimistic” about the expressway opening and there’s big potential for the Railway shopping area to redefine itself as a vibrant destination for visitors – and as a retail, service and hospitality hub for locals.
These are some of the key findings from a just-released report by First Retail Group. The report provides the basis for implementaion of a retail and investment strategy for Elevate Ōtaki.
Elevate chair Adrian Gregory says the report is being sent out to stakeholders, including retailers and other businesses, so they can digest its recommendations.
“We all need to digest what it says before we, along with stakeholders, begin to implement those recommendations,” he says.
Central to the report is the expressway. When open, it will reduce the number of vehicles travelling through the shopping precinct from 18,000 pre-Covid to about 6000.
The reports says businesses have known for several years that vehicle numbers would drop, and some retailers and property owners at the Railway preinct have recently made investments that reinforce their commitment to the area. Others are planning for growth once trading conditions become clearer.
“Strong focus should go into encouraging the establishment of quality casual dining experiences within the precinct – providing additional connection and relevance for local consumers and necessary amenities for visitors,” First Retail says.
Revocation (local works to enhance the area post-expressway opening) will enable greater use of footpath spaces, encouraging outdoor dining.
The report says the precinct needs to promote itself as a place for innovative businesses to establish and prosper. Elevate Ōtaki – in partnership with commercial property owners and leasing agents, should promote opportunities to prospective businesses, highlighting available spaces and supporting investment decisions with robust data and area insight.
A challenge will be that more service and non-retail businesses will likely move in, hampering moves to greater vibrancy.
The report says highway congestion has deterred some local and regional residents who avoid the area during weekends and busy commuting times.
“[But] once revocation works are complete, the precinct will become easier to access, more enjoyable to visit and an increasingly preferred choice for local and regional shoppers. These are important factors in achieving the necessary growth required to replace pass-through trade.”
The report says the precinct remains in a strong position because of the close routing of the expressway and connections north and south. These roads lead local traffic to or from the highway directly alongside the Railway area.
“While the bypass removes the bulk of through traffic, the precinct remains the gateway to much of Ōtaki’s residential areas and 6000 vehicles are predicted to use the area each day.
“It also provides a convenient range of needs for users of the adjacent expressway with the anticipation that some will continue to use the area as a stopping point on their journeys while adding just a few minutes to their journey times.
“A curated, well-understood consumer proposition can support en-route amenities for travellers as well as unique hospitality experiences and convenient shopping solutions for residents.”
Adrian Gregory says the report helps Elevate get a good understanding of what businesses and customers are experiencing and what opportunities they see in the future.
“There are several recommendations to consider and the team will be working through those – what ones we think we can realistically deliver, those that we need to partner on and those that we see being delivered by others like KCDC, Waka Kotahi etc,” Adrian says. “What the report does highlight is a general optimism for the future of Ōtaki in cementing itself as a destination for consumers, both out-of-town and local.”
Elevate has some elements of the recommendations under way already or complete.
“Several aspects of Elevate’s work continue to build on and reinforce Ōtaki as a destination.”
He emphasises that while the First Retail report focuses mainly on the Railway shopping area, the strategy will encompass the whole of the Ōtaki district, including Te Horo.
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