Hamilton East (Te Nihinihi*), town centre

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(*Te Nihinihi as noted on Heritage board Steele Park)

The background for this post comes from REJUVENATING Ireland’s small town centres: A Call to Action, which states: “Having an injection of residential occupancy on our main streets is another recommendation of this report (p4). … Simplifying the option to change a vacant commercial property to use as residential or other purposes would make it easier to bring buildings back to life, recognising that towns need more mixed uses (p31). … New measures to simplify the process of conversion of commercial use to residential use must be communicated to building owners and other stakeholders to ensure awareness (p36).”

For Hamilton East, residential has always been part of the mix of uses along Grey St and Clyde St. The greatest risk to this character comes from the District Plan zoning rules. When a residential property is rezoned to Suburban Centre, converting back to residential is a non-compliant activity, making it an arduous process to rejuvenate a town centre as recommended in Ireland or as in the Jane Jacobs example where ‘the beauty parlour … becomes the ground floor of a duplex’ (p207*) *The Death and Life of Great American Cities, by Jane Jacobs.

Hamilton East has two town centres: a 29ha linear mixed employment/retail/cafe/residential area along Grey St; and a 1.8 ha typical suburban centre on the corner of Clyde St and Peachgrove Rd.

The difference between my town centre map and the zoning map is that the zoning map will miss the little things happening in the real world and the reality is that the ‘ordinary lifespan of an urban business [is] about 5 years’ (p191**). My town centre map will be out of date within months.

Why do we have modern zoning? ‘The cause of zoning’s amazingly rapid adoption and spread in America was the expansion of low-cost freight trucks’ (xii Preface W.A.Fischel**). ‘The original zoning laws from the early twentieth century conceived of a hierarchy of land uses to be protected. At the pinnacle was residential use, especially the single-family home. The hierarchy was most obvious in the older, “cumulative” zoning regulations. In these, commerce and industry were prohibited in most residential [single-family home] zones, but residential uses were permitted anywhere’ (p35**).

**Zoning Rules! The economics of land use regulation. William A. Fischel

Hamilton City Council zoning map Showing ground floor residential zoned as Business Suburban

Before the 2012 District Plan update, an area zoned Suburban Centre permitted ground-floor residential properties in a Suburban Centre. Why, after the 2012 District Plan adoption, did this become a non-compliant activity? Who benefits from limiting residential dwelling mixed with retail?

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Hamilton East – Local dairies

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In the late 1860s the corner of Grey/Clyde St was the location of one of the first Settlers General Stores (owned by Philip Le Quesne) in Hamilton East. From here the town spread along both Clyde St and Grey St. Of note is that the spread of retail did not invade the Hamilton East grid pattern neighbourhood.

In March 1962 an article on ‘Town and Country Planning’ stated that – ‘until recently, if you owned some land you could do what you liked with it. You could build a house, a factory, a shop, and it was nobody’s business but your own’. The Encyclopaedia of New Zealand website has the following statement about Dairies: ‘Dairies offer an independent way to own your own business, and the older dairies were often based on people building a room onto the front of their houses and set up a shop selling a few grocery items, confectionery or other easily handled goods’.

In the past, on the corner of Galloway/Naylor there was a dairy with above-average car parking when compared to surviving dairies. This shows that being on a corner or having more than the average amount of car parking is only an assumed benefit for the survival of a local dairy.

If we want to understand organic town planning in a grid neighbourhood, Hamilton East was allowed change without town planning rules for close to one hundred years.

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