The council is considering a proposal (68kB PDF) for a market in the Wellington CBD. Not a farmers' market, nor the sort of deli/market that I've been suggesting, but a weekend arts and crafts market, presumably similar to that at the Christchurch Arts Centre. They've long considered that this would fill a gap in the city's retail sector, and in fact they have had discussions with someone who proposed such a market for Queens Wharf, but nothing came of that proposal.
For such a market to work, it needs a lot of elements to come together. The council considers that the critical mass would require about 80 stallholders, so it certainly sound like a major undertaking that would require at least 500 square metres. They also don't see it as a free-for-all full of second-hand knick-knacks and knock-off designer handbags (thank god!), but as an event that is actively managed to ensure quality, variety and entertainment. That sounds like it runs the risk of being a Disneyfied tourist experience, put perhaps we can look to Craftwerk to remind us that "arts and crafts" doesn't have to mean Uncle Fred's watercolours and Auntie Marjorie's doilies (or vice versa).
The other key element is, of course, location. According to the proposal, the ideal location would:
- be available at the appropriate times
- be cheap
- work well with the rest of the city
- have high foot traffic
- suit the installation of appropriate infrastructure (e.g. power connections, storage facilities for stalls and coverings, anchor points for stalls on the surface or on neighbouring building)
- be highly visible
- have good access (which, typically and depressingly, is interpreted as having plenty of parking rather than being close to public transport)
- offer shelter to shoppers and stall holders.
That's quite a list of requirements! In fact, they almost seem mutually exclusive, since any space that's large, sheltered and well-located is unlikely to be cheap and available. Also, if shelter is a prerequisite, then it will need to be indoors. Given Wellington's low rate of retail vacancy, that will be a challenge, and it seems a waste to leave a large retail space unoccupied for all but a few hours a week.
Several sites have already been considered, though the report doesn't specify where. Here are my own thoughts on some possible locations for an indoor arts and crafts market at weekends.
The ground floor of the NZX building has already been leased to a corporation that naturally seeks a decent return on its investment, but it's been empty for a long time now and maybe it's possible to lease it cheaply on a temporary once-a-week basis. If nothing else, that would demonstrate its value to potential commercial tenants.
Another potential waterfront location would be the atrium at the Chaffers Dock complex. That would complement the surrounding retail spaces under the old Herd St building and Boathouse apartments, as well as adding vitality to the edge of Waitangi Park. It could also combine with the "creative café" (whatever that is) suggested for one of the John Wardle buildings planned to go east of here. On the other hand, it's hard to see 80 stalls fitting within the atrium, unless they spill out into the surrounding spaces.
Of course, we already have an indoor weekend market: the Wellington Market between Cable St and Jervois Quay. But that's awaiting redevelopment, and has been looking dowdier and sadder as time goes on. Perhaps it would be possible for the council to take out a head lease on most of the ground floor, with a "skin" of permanent retail around the outside to provide commercial return and maintain active edges all week.
Another possibility is Shed 13 at Kumutoto. The current plans are to renovate it and use it for the sort of temporary events and exhibitions currently hosted by Shed 11, which would rule it out unless the exhibitions only ran during the week and could be quickly packed away. On the other hand, if it's primarily used for functions (conference, parties, product launches) during the week, then the uses could complement one another quite well
Those are some thoughts on indoor locations: I'll write soon about possibilities for open-air markets or temporary shelters.