Clyde braces for major disruption as council finally finishes upgrade
With upgrades imminent for Clyde’s main street, it’s been unsettling for some business owners who say they've only recently learned about the permanent changes as well as the months-long street closures needed to achieve them.
In a recent press release, the Central Otago District Council explains upgrades to the township's main drag, Sunderland Street, and nearby Holloway Street will involve widening footpaths and upgrading road surfaces.
This work falls under the council's ongoing Clyde Heritage Precinct upgrade project, which it says will enhance Clyde’s "safe and friendly village atmosphere” by creating a more pedestrian-friendly space and enhancing outdoor dining.
Also in its plans, new lights and outdoor furniture, and tree plantings.
Whilst one business owner was supportive of the council's plans to improve and invest in Clyde, they say they would have like to see more consultation.
A spokesperson for the council says it did consult on the work back in 2018, as part of the long-term plan process, with 65 percent of written submissions backing it.
However, business owner Brendon Urlich notes that 2018's a long-time ago, and “the world and the stakeholders have changed since then”.
His business Central Cycle Trail Co. wasn’t in operation in Clyde back then - only opening in the past three years.
He was first made aware of the upgrades last week when a member of the council visited the premises and informed him that work was beginning in April.
“Consultation is all a business owner wants, it’s fair to say we need to have a conversation,” Mr Urlich says.
The upgrades will have a big impact on how Central Cycle Trail Co. operates, as well as the other businesses in the heritage precinct, during the construction work and after completion.
Mr Urlich says he is supportive of making Clyde more attractive to visitors and lowering the speed limit through the town.
“I love the idea of improving visitors experience. I think that's great and the investment of funds is great. I just encourage the council to work with business owners in order to achieve that. We need to be part of the conversation."
He says business owners and the council need to be "equal partners in this to make Central Otago and Clyde an even more amazing place to be".
After the work is complete, and the car parks are removed from outside his business, different pickup and drop off arrangements with his customers will have to be organised.
Additional carparks will be added elsewhere in the heritage precinct, and the net number of carparks in the area will increase, despite the losses outside specific businesses.
Another business owner who spoke to Crux also didn’t remember the 2018 consultation on the upgrades, and the news of it took them by surprise too.
Vincent Ward councillor and community board chair Tamah Alley acknowledges it has been some years since this work was consulted on.
She notes, in light of the community’s reaction, a meeting between the council project manager and businesses is being organised by the council.
A date has not been set, but Ms Alley hopes for an invite. Business owner Mr Urlich says he has not yet received information about the meeting.
Ms Alley says most businesses – but not all – were visited in person and given a flyer about the work at the end of February, and she's also conversing with businesses and meeting with them next week.
“As with any change, especially when it involves streets being closed for a time, some people may be unhappy, and businesses concerned about the impact on their customers or operations.
“I understand the concern from businesses is less about the eventual outcome, and more about how their business will be impacted while the work is undertaken, which is understandable.”
Ms Alley says that contractors completing the work will be doing everything they can to have walking access available to all businesses, at all times.
The community reaction to the first stage of the Clyde Heritage Precinct upgrades – involving similar upgrade work for Lodge Lane – has been very positive, Ms Alley says.
She expects the same for this second set of changes, saying it will “undoubtedly” make Clyde a more enjoyable place to visit for pedestrians – especially for those with mobility issues or prams.
“I would think that this would only improve business and tourism in the town in the long run.”
The work has been scheduled in two phases - the first beginning in April and lasting until October and the second, from April until July 2024 – to minimise disruption during the peak visitor season.
She notes the timing of the work has been selected to make the most of what is generally a quieter time in Clyde, although she recognises that the new Dunstan Cycle Trail has drastically impacted what "quiet" means for the town.
Vincent Ward councillor Ian Cooney says the changes will "encourage a more enjoyable experience of the Clyde precinct” by making pedestrian access easier and lowering the volume of cars.
And he thinks that foot traffic's "better for shops and local businesses".
He also notes from his own experience of driving down Clyde’s main street with cars parked on either side of the road there isn’t much space for vehicles to move between them.
Mr Cooney joined the council in 2019, and wasn’t yet round the table when the upgrades were initially discussed and consulted on, but notes the council does take on board community feedback and suggestions during the creation of its long-term plan.
“We certainly took submissions very seriously and actually changed the direction of some of the items in the last long term plan because of submissions.”
All Vincent Ward councillors have been approached for comment.