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Adding the economic punch to Thames
Aug 20, 2013
Thames Coromandel District Council is on the way to revitalising Thames township under a new urban development strategy delivered by Cranleigh.
Working with the Thames Focus Group, and architects CMA+U, Cranleigh set out to produce a dynamic Thames + Urban Development Strategy underpinned by a business plan that not only capitalised on the town’s quality and community values, but was achievable within existing resources and Thames Coromandel District Council (TCDC) funding programmes.
The strategy identifies four distinct precincts – Northern Gateway, Grahamstown Heritage Precinct, Regional Hub and Southern Gateway – for unlocking sustainable commercial projects and economic development initiatives.
The overall strategy mixes lifestyle with trade, learning with commercial and public facilities and integrating the new with the historic character of Thames.
Thames Focus Group emphasised the strategy must identify immediately achievable projects demonstrating the value of the concept and acting as a catalyst for further stages. Cranleigh associate Michele Berry (pictured below) says this will also signal to Thames residents the plan is transformational with “real outcomes”.
The strategy recognised Thames as having a stable population in a centralised location with affordable housing and modern healthcare facilities, but in recent years has been hampered by poor capital asset efficiency, slow economic growth, low incomes and poor levels of education.
A key priority for Thames is enhancing the design of the town and the intensification of people, business and leisure activities across its urban fabric to entice visitors, as well as attract and retain talent and investment.
“We have produced a strategy that is innovative, relevant and achievable, but its success will lie in the council establishing a Project Delivery Unit to drive the strategy and harness private and public resources while proving it will not be an additional cost burden on ratepayers, but will be ultimately cash positive.”
Berry says each precinct has its own defined character and purpose and a number of suggested projects include marker buildings at the Sothern and Northern Gateways, development of a landfill site as a temporary garden/park until commercial and residential possibilities are considered, redevelopment of a number of other buildings into either commercial property or medium density housing, a community area encompassing the Civic Centre with flexible spaces for learning, skills training and support services plus an atrium for events and exhibitions and relocation of the library.
Other suggested projects include a swimming pool and skate park as part of Danby Field recreational area, refocusing the wharf and marina into a visitor attraction with commercial/services space plus medium density housing, and establishing a key crossing point over SH25 with traffic lights to create a sense of arrival in an urban area.
Berry says the strategy provides a “big picture” for a sustainable and viable future through enhancing Thames’ rich base of cultural heritage and industrial urban fabric. “It has not been easy to put together and required tough and strategic choices with the focus on economic initiatives based on realistic, realisable projects.
“The strategy will bring significant value to the community, business activities and visitor enjoyment within tight budgets. Each piece in the puzzle will be critical in shaping the quality and viability of Thames’ future.