11 April 2023

Wagga CBD masterplan to create 'places that people want to spend more time in'

| Chris Roe
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John Sidgwick

Director of Regional Activation John Sidgwick says the process is underway to create a people-focused CBD. Photo: Chris Roe.

With an eye towards a future boom, Wagga Wagga City Council (WWCC) is keen to lay the groundwork to cement the city’s standing as the state’s southern capital focused around a vibrant CBD.

WWCC agreed last week to put out a contract to develop a CBD masterplan and appoint consultants to design a strategy for the city centre.

Director of Regional Activation John Sidgwick said the masterplan would look at the existing fabric of the city centre to understand what’s working and what may change over time.

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“Issues such as the amount of vegetation, the amount of carparking, how wide our footpaths are, what we do within our buildings, do we change uses?” he said, explaining that the ultimate aim was to create places that people wanted to spend more time in.

“We will be asking the community: How do you use those spaces and what might make you want to be in those spaces at different times of the day or during different seasons?”

As a regional centre, Wagga services a population of more than 175,000 people, with about 1.4 million visitors passing through each year.

The CBD masterplan will propose a vision for 2040 and focus on land use, urban design, activation, movement and people.

Wagga snapshot report

The 2121 PlaceScore report Understanding Wagga Wagga City Centre offers a snapshot of the CBD and food for thought. Photo: WWCC.

It will also build on research put forward in the PlaceScore report Understanding Wagga Wagga City Centre, which collected feedback to create a snapshot of current performance.

Its threefold objective was to understand the problems that may need to be solved, identify current strengths that can be built on, and define the future pathways needed to deliver the investment required to make appropriate improvements.

Overall, the city performed well with its diverse economy and focal points for locals and tourists in the CBD, but the report also identified unique problems.

One challenge is that the main street (or streets) are “over-scaled and disconnected”, pointing to the city’s long blocks and wide streets that can feel “empty and uninviting”.

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“The long street length and lack of visual diversity or pocket spaces designed for the community have created a movement-focused environment where most people walk alone with fewer people staying or interacting and fewer in pairs or in groups,” the report said, noting that the Fitzmaurice Street end in particular suffered from a lack of foot traffic and “sociability”.

Parking, outdoor dining, “things to do”, and vegetation and natural elements were marked as areas for improvement, while clean public spaces, ease of walking around and a sense of safety were all noted as positives to build on.

The report also suggested building on defined precincts to diversify the city’s customer base, and supported long-term economic sustainability and maximising Fitzmaurice Street’s proximity to the river.

map of Wagga

A 2021 report suggested building on Wagga’s already loosely defined precincts. Photo: WWCC.

Mr Sidgwick said Wagga had plenty to build on.

“By and large, the city centre is actually very vital and very vibrant, so we’re very fortunate here in Wagga,” he said.

“Small businesses are the attractors, they are the glue to help bring people into the city centre. So understanding what their needs are, how late and how often they are open will be a central part of our engagement strategy.”

He said the plan would explore the needs of a broad cross-section of the community in the hope of creating a space where everyone would feel comfortable.

“Encouraging our youth to come into the city and having spaces where they can congregate and enjoy and recreate safely and in a way that is constructed within the rest of the city fabric will be important,” Mr Sidgwick said.

“We also have an ageing demographic, so how do we keep the city centre as a space for people in that age group, who’ve got very different needs and uses? How do we make it accessible for them as well?”

The council has reached out to consultants and hopes to undertake the initial background studies over the coming months.

It will then seek community feedback before the finished product is delivered in the next 18 months.

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