Dicht bij huis: het streven om meer mensen in de centrale stad te laten wonenseptember 12, 2020
After the bustle of central London, Richard and Jenny Adams made the big move to a small New Zealand city.
They settled in Nelson 24 years ago after living in the middle of London, running pubs which had accommodation upstairs.
They wanted a similar inner-city lifestyle – albeit greatly scaled down – and they managed to find it in the shape of a 145-year-old building in Hardy St. They kitted out the downstairs area into their hair salon business and lived upstairs.
They raised their three children in the middle of town and have no plans to leave but have some good advice for others thinking about an inner city address.
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It’s a shift that councils around the country want to encourage, both to inject more life into city centres and to intensify housing option.
According to the Nelson City Council, fewer than 100 people live in the city and 1500 live within a kilometre or two. But that number is expected to increase.
Jenny says they knew if they could handle living in London they could “handle living in inner city Nelson”.
Their building is multi-purpose and steeped in history with the timber floorboards evoking stories of the dine-in fish and chip shop, Peter’s Restaurant.
The grease from the deep-fryer still sweats to the surface on hot days, Richard says.
The Adams’ three-bedroom home upstairs has been a nursery and party venue for their three children, who have now flown the coop.
Standing on the street looking at the bright red, weatherboard building, no-one would think there was a family home upstairs where the couple’s two staffordshire terriers enjoy space to run.
A para pool once took centre stage in the back courtyard before it was removed for practical reasons.
The city centre may be at their doorstep, but Richard says the haven hasn’t come without its challenges, including noise, parking issues and expensive rates.
The couple installed hush glass in their windows when they first moved in to dull the noise, and Richard says it worked, but “late night noise is an issue”.
“We only wake up for violence. We don’t wake up for happiness”.
Parking initially posed a challenge as they have no street parking or garage. Having things stolen out of their car while they were running items upstairs to their home was the last straw, he says.
To overcome the parking challenge the couple bought a building years ago in Church Street, now home to East St Cafe, Restaurant and Bar, “specifically, so we could have a car park”.
But their car barely leaves the premises during the week with most destinations in walkable distance. Grocery shopping has been made easy with a trolley given to them by their local New World manager.
Richard says they have “the best of both worlds” with a bach in Golden Bay they could escape to.
The Adams aren’t the only ones seeing a car park as a necessity in the city.
Bayleys business development and operations manager Jacques Reynolds says people looking to live in the city still needed parking.
He says the Nelson City Council prefer less parking but people wanted at least one car.
“Although we say the town is walkable … they still like to drive.”
He says most people want two-bedroom, two-bathroom homes.
And all ages were seeking the inner city life, Reynolds says, including couples who want to “work hard, play hard”, older professionals scaling down who “want to be in the centre of things” and retirees.
He thought retirees would be want to move out to the countryside, but it’s not always the case. They want access to everything close by in Nelson.
Nelson artist Anne Rush traded life on an orchard for a home on the town’s doorstep 20 years ago, moving to Elliott St before selling up and settling at Betts Apartments, on the corner of Trafalgar Square and Nile St, in November.
She said as a single, older woman, the spot met her needs.
Her apartment is 112 square metres and one of 16 units with shared outdoor areas.
She enjoys the no-fuss life with no big garden to tend to, no maintenance and less “things” to store.
“I think there’s a lifestyle trend, as you get older you don’t want so much stuff. You’ve had things in your life you don’t need any more – like trying to get rid of your kids’ stuff.”
Rush says she sold her Californian bungalow and bought her apartment off the plan at the same time “to make sure I didn’t lose out, I was concerned the market might drop, but it hasn’t”.
Living close to the Church Steps also meant being close to events, including the public New Year’s Eve parties, but like the Adams, Rush says she enjoys hearing the social sounds.
“If you choose to live in the city, you’re not choosing silence. I like the social feeling of people around me.”
She says she also feels “incredibly safe” at the apartment block.
Living close to cafes, art and culture and parks has prompted Rush to walk a lot more.
This supports what Reynolds says – people want to live close to all the facilities and amenities a city has to offer including the library, cinema, council, optometrist, dentist and wide open spaces of the beach just a walk or bike away.
“Everything is there on their doorstep. They don’t have to get in a car and sit in traffic for 20 to 30 minutes to get there. And if they want to leave their apartments, it’s lock up and go.”
And though apartment blocks in the city are a relatively new concept, he says developers definitely had an appetite for creating housing in town, whether it was through building conversions or new builds. The latter option is the most preferred.
Reynolds says it’s not that easy to convert buildings; “if it was easy, everybody would’ve been doing it”.
Old building renovations and repurposing were “red-flagged” he says, with many boxes to tick.
“We have to have our plans peer reviewed for safety, seismic events, fire ratings, traffic, services and that’s a given. There’s no leeway. You don’t want to play with people’s safety.
“Nelson does have a few old buildings, [but it’s] almost better to start from scratch.”
He says for Nelson to grow, the only way is up.
Zoning rules restrict the height to three or four levels in the CBD, but he says new zoning coming out next year could possibly see relaxed height restrictions.
A major hurdle for people looking to the city is price, Reynolds says, with many saying there should be “more affordable housing”.
But he says, what is “affordable”? To some, the current Nelson price bracket of $600,000 to 1.5 million, is reasonable.
“There’s definitely an appetite, we can see in the last five years more developers are stepping up to the plate. The first big one here was Betts and now they’re doing the Malthouse, behind FreshChoice.”
Other proposed new blocks include 317 Hardy St, the Riverfront and 71 Haven Rd.
He says Nelson’s inner city landscape will look very different in a decade.
If the Nelson City Council reaches its goals, it will become a hive of activity over the next 30 years.
Nelson City Council environmental management group manager Clare Barton says there is a vision for a thriving central city which is outlined in the Long Term Plan 2018-28.
“The council is already working to enable more people to live in or near the city centre. Projects including the City Centre Spatial Plan, Development Contributions Policy, and Intensification Action Plan all focus on encouraging increased residential redevelopment in the city centre.”
She says there is capacity for about 670 additional households in the city centre, each accommodating 2.4 people per household, or about 1600 in total.
There are multiple benefits in having inner city living, Barton says. It adds vibrancy, more people makes it possible for businesses to extend retail and business hours, there is reduced traffic and parking demands during peak times, it helps make the city more resilient to climate change and there are rates benefits for residential and mixed-use developments.
“The council is required to meet long term housing capacity requirements set by central government. As well as encouraging central city residential intensification, the council also needs to enable greenfield (new development) land to meet these targets.”