19 April 2017

Invercargill’s $40m hotel a turning point - ‘we’re in growth mode’

Invercargill is growing and the announcement of a $40m hotel timely, city leaders say.

The $40 million, 80-room hotel on Don and Dee Streets by the Invercargill Licensing Trust can’t come fast enough for some, who say the decision could spark more city development.

Invercargill mayor Tim Shadbolt said there had been a lot of build up to the announcement.

“It’s going to be a major part of the inner city upgrade. The other initiatives are a bit of a wait and see.”

Now that the word was out, Don St would draw other developments to the area, Shadbolt said.

First Retail Group is working to revitalise the area, with a two-way Don St on the cards.

The council also had its own development in progress, also on Don St site across the road from the hotel site.

The development would home McCulloch and Partners accountancy firm, Cruickshank Pryde law firm, Three Bean Cafe and Craigs Investment Partners.

Shadbolt said once Don St was returned to two-way, parking would be the next issue.

There had been several meetings with the trust to discuss how the council would support the hotel project, he said.

“A lot of people are saying this is a real turning point.”

Council inner-city coordinator Kari Graber said the hotel would serve as an “anchor” in the city.

“It will be a real anchor and help us find the heart of the CBD.”

Developers and businesses would see the hotel development and perhaps reconsider Invercargill as a location, Graber said.

“We’re just at the pinnacle of being at something special.”

Council chief executive Richard King said it was a welcome announcement.

Invercargill was very short of accommodation for events such as the Bluff Oyster Festival and the Burt Munro Challenge, King said.

“The World Shearing Champs was backed up to Balclutha.”

Despite all the action taking place on Don St, King believed Esk St would always be considered the centre of the city.

However, the CBD was “too big” he said.

“It does certainly need to condense down.”

Southland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Sheree Carey said the location was vital for the future of the CBD.

The hotel would attract more foot traffic, and hopefully new retail opportunities, she said.

“Along with the council’s new building and the proposed change of a two-way street, this will breathe new life back into Don St.”

HWR director Scott O’Donnell, who developed attractions Bill Richardson Transport World and the Classic Motorcycle Mecca, said it was positive the ILT had made the call for a new hotel.

The hotel would draw more attention not just to Don St, but the whole CBD, he said.

“They [developers] can see the regeneration happening, they can see the confidence there.

“So hopefully, we can get the snowball rolling and get some development.”

Southland Regional Development Strategy governance group chair Tom Campbell said three things needed to happen in the CBD - the art gallery, new shopping precinct and the hotel.

The strategy saw the hotel as “a critical development” towards city revitalisation, he said.

“We need accommodation which is top quality.”

Campbell said he wanted to congratulate the ILT on its “bold decision”.

“It’s been difficult for them to commit to the hotel because the occupants in the CBD have not been that high.

“I hope the ILT will see this not as an investment in the hotel, but as an investment in the city.”

Hospitality New Zealand Southland branch president Stephen Grieve said the announcement was a long time coming, and was “about time”.

“The tourism numbers are effectively turning around ... things are starting to stack up for the city.

“We are in growth mode.”

The trust would not spend $40m without it being a step to something further, he said.

Grieve believed the hotel would be a catalyst for more development.

Another 80 beds in the city would mean another 80 people roaming the CBD when a large event was on, he said.

The hotel would provide more employment opportunities for Southlanders in the hospitality industry, he said.

“It’s a major economic boost for the city that’s been long-awaited,” he said.

“It’s really going to boost the economy and hospitality. So good on the ILT.”