Masterton Mayor Lyn Patterson and Marvin Guerrero, owner of Don Luciano cafe on King St. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

PAM GRAHAM
pam.graham@age.co.nz

A trio of “parklets” will pop up in Masterton’s town centre within weeks to give people a taste of what is to come in the rejuvenation of the town’s centre – though the plans prompted a robust debate among Masterton district councillors on Wednesday.

“Parklets” are sidewalk extensions with seating and plantings, designed to provide a pleasant place for people on streets.

At Wednesday’s meeting, councillors considered a final report prepared by urban design consultant Boffa Miskell, which showed concept ideas for public spaces throughout the CBD.

Mayor Lyn Patterson said the Town Centre Strategy gave direction and shape to planned developments in Masterton’s town centre for the next 20 years.

The temporary parklets, which will each require several parking spaces, “will encourage people to use space in ways that they may not have before”.

“It’s about time we did this work – our town centre needs a rethink. We’ve committed $3.63 million to undertake these key projects and get the ball rolling on a town centre that will attract visitors and residents.

“The parklets enable us to give things a try and learn what is and what isn’t effective.

“But this is only a start – we will have a range of more permanent projects under way in due course.”

The council agreed to adopt the Masterton Town Strategy and approved a first phase of temporary changes, which included the parklets.

A reference group will be set up for the strategy and to start studying three projects to provide pedestrian-friendly areas in Park and Bruce streets, and a section of Queen St, in consultation with affected businesses.

But a history of past failed attempts to pedestrianise Queen Street was raised at the meeting, along with the need to think about the south end of town as well as the north.

Cr Brent Goodwin said the council’s CBD plans had morphed into tree-scaping, and heritage buildings had not received enough attention in the report.

“I’m pessimistic about Park St working but I am happy to trial that,” he said.

But he said no one went to either Park or Bruce streets.

This was about rejuvenating the CBD and council should be concentrating on where the people are, Goodwin said.

The strategy concentrated on “where people aren’t”.

“This is focusing on the dead parts, hoping to bring them to life. To me that is a strategy for failure.”

The idea of a temporary pedestrianisation of part of Queen St needed more detail he said, because closing the street for the Christmas parade had just annoyed the majority of people who worked and did business there.

Cr Bex Johnson did not agree with Goodwin.

She said the parklets were a great idea to provide great visual interest while the council worked on specific projects.

“There is so much private development about to happen in the CBD with four quite big projects, which will add some energy and excitement into the area,” she said.

The parklets could be moved around as development happened in the CBD, she said.

The area in front of Don Luciano café on King St will be the site of one of the parklets.

Café owner Marvin Guerrero said: “I’m really excited about these developments; even if they are temporary, things are moving in the right direction – after all Rome wasn’t built in a day.

“Anything that adds to what we offer our customers is a bonus – we’re always looking for new ways to provide a great service,” Mr Guerrero said.

The parklets will emerge in the next month.

The full strategy is available on the council website.