The recent parking debate has highlighted that CBD’s here and elsewhere are in transition and locally we have seen an increase in lettable properties, repurposing with an increase in office space, and a decline in Retail Strip shops that correlates with an expansion of suburban retail centres and most critically the expansion of online retailing. The decline in our State economy and discretionary spending are also having an impact.
Contrary to the myth, Parking is not free anywhere – someone always pays. If it is not the user, it is the businesses that pay through higher leasing rates or the whole community through rates. Whilst it is true that the local decision on rates was not linked to decisions around the parking strategy the decision will reduce the parking reserve and will reduce this cash asset, something that will impact later when additional parking or maintenance are needed.
The Chamber position, was based on member comments ranging from wanting no change through to the two hour option with the one hour option seeming to be a good compromise that would appeal to customers as an incentive, maintain a level of churn and reduce impact on the parking reserve. The council subsequently supported the two hour option and we hope that along with improved signage and other changes it delivers the outcomes hoped for. In the medium term the Transforming Bunbury’s Waterfront project, development of key sites, increased CBD population density and events have a key role to play.
Most critically the City needs to allocate significant funds towards an active marketing and promotions campaign for the CBD and the City generally.
We urgently need to change the narrative around the CBD. We will be much better served by adopting the recommended actions, working together and focussing on the positive aspects of the CBD and the vibrancy and experience it can deliver.
The key message is that within an integrated regional centre and shopping experience: The CBD has free parking options; specialised retailing, delivers a rich arts, cultural and waterfront experience; and provides a vibrant and entertaining space that everyone can enjoy.