Concern about i-Site move

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Changes inevitable . . . Clutha Community Hub Charitable Trust volunteer chairman Dale Anderson, with the old War Memorial Hall in the background. PHOTO: JOHN COSGROVE

NICK BROOK@nullcluthaleader.co.nz

Main street businesses say they have seen an increase in trade from the temporary location of the information centre on the corner of Clyde and John Sts, Balclutha, and fear losing the boost when the i-Site is incorporated into the Clutha Community Hub.

‘‘With the i-Site central, people park here and check out the local shops and cafes. The ladies are lovely and they direct a lot of visitors into the main street,’’ a local business owner, who did not wish to be named, said.

The concern held by most of the ‘‘South end’’ traders spoken to was that when the new hub was completed visitors would stop ‘‘on the edge of town’’ for travel information, use the hub toilets, go to a hub cafe, ‘‘do all their shopping at Countdown’’, and drive away without noticing the rest of the town.

‘‘The Main Street is the town,’’ another business owner said.

‘‘Will council develop their own retail through the i-site? Some towns have big gift shop information centres and that would definitely affect retailers further down.’’

Clutha Community Hub Charitable Trust chairman Dale Anderson referred to studies and reports on community outcomes that had been completed by the organisation.

‘‘Consider the success of the ‘Epic’ co›working space in Westport. The hub is a community project not a council project, and i-Site is essentially just another tenant,’’ he said. Mr Anderson agreed changes were inevitable, including possible retail and real›estate expansion nearer the river, and asserted that the hub would be a major factor in ensuring changes would be positive for the town, citing the role of the hub in facilitating growing business and investment interest in the district.

‘‘Existing businesses only have to contact us to discuss tenancy options. We’ve already had interest and we’re expecting people to jump at the opportunity to move. I’d quite like to see an agritech company move out from the city to headquarter in this more rural setting.’’

Mr Anderson also explained that the location had been determined by the viability of the former War Memorial Hall land, and the consideration that had gone into maximising that space for the new project.

‘‘In the old days, the community was more connected to the river. The hub will have waterfront views and should be a conduit back to the riverside . . .There are a lot of artists and galleries in the area so the hub’s art trail will be able to stay current, and the community spaces will be available on user›friendly short›notice terms,’’ he said.

Successive governments’ regional development goals have been boosted by some aspects of the Covid›19 pandemic, and the hub website lists how the finished site will continue to cater for traditional activities and open new horizons for events and performing arts from local to national levels.

‘‘The community group thought carefully about the i-Site, and observing the changing dynamics of retail and the impact of its temporary relocation highlights the opportunity that exists, and the progression that can be made when people identify possibilities for growth,’’ Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan said.

The i-Site employees indicated they would always focus on and enjoy their role in encouraging visitors to experience urban Balclutha as well as wider district attractions.