Like many cities, Hobart has some under-utilised spaces and the article below from The Mercury starts a conversation about how best to improve some areas for pedestrians and visitors to the CBD. Over the years lots of areas have been snaffled up for parking and perhaps could have a better use. Definitely something worth thinking about.
The Hobart Mums Network mentioned in the article is a vibrant and active group in Hobart, since starting in 2011. You can find our more about them at their Facebook page and website.
Grand design for CBD
Pop-up reading rooms in the mall, laneway soup and coffee bars and urban parks bringing tranquillity to the heart of the Hobart. These are the visions of UK-trained urban designer Nick Booth, who has called on the city’s residents to reclaim the lost spaces of their CBD through a series of retreats. In particular, Mr Booth has identified the central-city Collins Court area — much of which is currently used as a car park — as an unpolished gem of city life.
“As I was first walking around I was really struck by how quiet it was in the CBD, especially out of working days,” Mr Booth said in the car park behind St David’s Cathedral.
“Coming from a European background, spaces like this in the centre of the city would be used. They just wouldn’t be used as car parks.”
Mr Booth’s plan for Collins Court involves an urban park comprising generous seating, public art installations, landscaping and a children’s playground. He envisages a welcoming space that not only caters to people on their lunch break, but families on weekend visits, and even as the location for movie screenings and theatre productions. He said that while there was more to a CBD than people simply purchasing and getting out again, his plan also made economic sense.
“If you can attract people to stay longer in the city, they will spend more,” Mr Booth said.
“If McDonald’s can work that out with their playgrounds, so can we.”
One supporter of Mr Booth’s approach is Australian Institute of Landscape Architects fellow Jerry de Gryse. Mr de Gryse said there was still plenty of work remaining to turn the city a truly liveable space.
“We’ve finished the first stage of building Hobart. We’ve built a shelter for ourself, but we haven’t yet built a home,” he said.
“We need more than just a mall. Things need to be done more artfully.
“We need better seating, better lighting, and to reduce the impact of the car.”
Hobart Mums Network organiser Christine Jolly has read over Mr Booth’s Collins Court plans and likes what she sees. She said what mothers needed in the city were more places to move freely and linger.
“When a mum thinks of going to the CBD, she has a list of things to do before her toddler explodes,” Ms Jolly said.
“This would create an extra incentive to stay longer.”
Ms Jolly described Collins Court in its present form as “a bit dodgy and uncomfortable”, and said she and her children darted through as quickly as possible.
Mr Booth’s plans are consistent with her desire to see the city more “pedestrianised”.
“What excited us about Nick’s plans is that there’s something for everybody,” she said.
Mr Booth urged Hobart to have “a bit more confidence in itself” in terms of how it wanted to look and said it would take people power to make a plan like his become reality in the CBD.
He said his plan, which included a digital film called Car Park, was intended to be a conversation starter.
What would you like to see improved in the Hobart CBD or other urban centres in Tasmania? What would make you more likely to visit and spend time (and money)?