Historic building sought for tourism centre
Hastings inner-city retailers are calling for a new visitor information centre to be sited at the “most photographed building in Hastings” – the Westermans’ building in the east mall.
However, the Hastings Tourism Facilities Trust says it won’t be pressured into making a decision.
A petition to use the empty Westermans building has been started while retailers have written to Hastings Mayor Jeremy Dwyer and the chief executive of the trust, Mike Hodge.
The present centre on Russell Street has long been seen as inadequate and the trust is looking at options.
Mr Hodge said he expected to come back to the council with a recommendation in the next few months.
The trust has in the past earmarked Civic Square as its favourite site option and has been negotiating with Tranz Rail to act as a partner and subsidise the cost.
However, retailers say they can’t understand what is wrong with the Westermans’ site.
The owner of Elmar Fuji Image Plaza, Cyril Hill, said his shop was constantly visited by people wanting information because of its east mall location Surely, this was the area, with shops handy, where a centre should be situated, he said.
“With Westermans’ rare Spanish architectural theme, it is a gem wasted when it should be used to promote tourism as a feature of Hastings. It is the most photographed building in Hastings. Just stand back and look at its potential,” he said.
Hastings district councillor Cynthia Bowers was in no doubt that the Westermans site was best. She said shopping was the number one leisure activity and it made sense to set up the centre next to shops.
“Why would you want to build a new building to house a centre when you have lots of empty space in the CBD, some of which is really suitable, she asked.
“Why wouldn’t council want to take the lead and occupy some of the space and be a catalyst for further revitalisation in the CBD?”
Cr Bowers also chairs the Landmarks Commission and is heavily involved with the upgrade to the mall and Market and Russell Streets. She said parking for a centre was already available behind Deka and parking for tourist buses could easily be made available.
Mr Hodge said he was aware of the developments in the east mall and that there was pressure on the trust to make a decision to ﬁt in with the plans. However this shouldn’t have undue inﬂuence on the trust’s decision.
The trust had looked at seven options and nothing had been discounted yet. He acknowledged that as well as Civic Square, Westermans and the Post Ofﬁce were other frontrunners.
Mr Hodge said that once the trust presented its recommendations to the council, people would have the chance to argue.
Photo caption – HASTINGS’ Westerman’s building in the east mall…one of the city’s most photographed buildings.
HB TODAY PICTURE: RICHARD ROBINSON