Council committing $665,000 to investigating Cromwell mall options

by Kim Bowden - May 07, 2024

Details of decisions made behind closed doors about a council project to revamp Cromwell's town centre have been released, and affected commercial building owners are unimpressed with what they've been told.

The council has budgeted $665,000 to further investigate options for reimagining the precinct that centres on the open-air Cromwell Mall, which has come under flak from some locals for its tired appearance and closed-in feel.

But now no moves will be made to modernise the space or open it up until after another round of community consultation, which will happen as part of next year's development of the council's Long Term Plan, already pushed out by a year.

Gary Anderson, who owns several premises in the area, says he and other stakeholders were delivered the news in a meeting in recent days with representatives of the council.

Mr Anderson says they have been waiting long enough already for some action on the mall from the council, and further delays feel frustrating.

As a property owner, he has been in limbo, waiting to see what would be proposed and how it could impact on his buildings and their tenants.

He thinks the project has already been a drawn out one and is sceptical about hundreds of thousands of dollars being spent on paperwork and ideas before any physical work is done.

"They've been investigating for 25 years.

"Just spend some money. They don't need to buy buildings, just deal with the verandahs and smarten up the mall; that's all they need to do."

He says he will now be considering what investment he can make himself to improve things.

"I can't wait for them. I'm absolutely sick of it."

In a statement today the Central Otago District Council says elected members have agreed that a detailed breakdown and further investigation of the costs would be required to enable the council to make a decision on the preferred options to be consulted on in the 2025 to 2034 Long Term Plan, and that this would be discussed at its May meeting.

In the statement the council details that funding of $665,000 for further detailed investigation on the project was in the 2023 to 2024 budget and is to be carried forward for the 2024 to 2025 Annual Plan - out for public consultation now.

"It was also agreed that a report on where the governance oversight sat - Council or community board - should also go to the May meeting."

In a separate resolution, the council made a decision regarding the funding of any property purchases for the project.

"It was agreed that negotiations for property purchases should cease until the various options for the town centre were worked through and approved." 

The discussions happened during a public excluded session during the full council meeting on April 24.

The Cromwell mall opened in 1985 in response to the planned flooding of Lake Dunstan and loss of the then town centre.

Approximately ten years ago, the northern side of the mall had a $1.3 million council-led spruce up, which included new toilets and a bus shelter for Lode Lane toilets as well as new paving, stone walls, seating, lighting, and landscaping.

The latest Cromwell town centre project was a point of discussion in the 2021 to 2031 Long Term Plan, where the community was consulted on an ambitious $42-million proposal to breathe life into the area.

However, in today's statement the council says "as a result of the current economic climate and the cost increase in building the town hall" the decision was made to consult again with the community.

The budget for the new town hall, another key Cromwell project committed to in the last Long Term Plan, has ballooned from the $31.5 million flagged in the ten year planning document to $45.8 million.

Main image: Cromwell's central mall.

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