My Thoughts and Essays on Life: The Devolution of Hamilton's CBD
If Hamilton wasn’t so full of bogan’s I think the CBD would do well as the artsy/boho scene for Hamilton, as you have Wintec, the Meteor as well as teh Museum all within walking distance. Almost something that could be compared to Newtown here in Sydney perhaps. Wishfull thinking perhaps, it’s just sad that it’s all falling to ruins as it’s abandoned by shoppers for The Base.
The Devolution of Hamilton’s CBD
Recently The Base, a large shopping center (from what I understand is the largest in NZ), has become the central hub of sorts for the city. I think it started out as an army base, hence the name. It was only a few years ago, maybe about the time I started high school, that construction started there. At first it was a massive carpark surrounded by 20 or so large department stores, like The Warehouse and Dressmart, a mall of clothing stores in itself. Even back then it was huge, but the base has since expanded to include almost everything a consumer could ever need, with several options for each. There’s now a mall there, which itself is larger than the CBD’s mall and Westfield, another shopping centre in Hamilton. Then there’s at least 50 massive stores separate from the mall: Noel Leeming, The Warehouse, No.1 Shoes, Kathmandu, North Beach, Whitcoulls, and so on. Inside the mall there’s a cinema, foodcourt, Farmers, and countless clothing stores, amongst others. So, t’s massive. Either something you need is there or it’s a minute’s walk away. There’s a supermarket across the road, a caryard down the road, and an entire industrial area surrounding it.
So The Base presents a problem for the CBD. If there’s everything at The Base it’s newer, flashier, and more exciting, why go to the CBD? Evidently people have realized this, as I saw in my recent visits there. I have few reasons to go there myself, but on this ocassion I needed to go to Dick Smith, an electronics store, to browse headphones. Of course there’s a Dick Smith at The Base, but it’s smaller. This was the first time I’d been to the CBD in over a month, with all of my other purchases being made at The Base. I locked up my bike just past the bridge and walked through down the main road.
The first thing I noticed is that there’s some really strange people there. A few years ago town was bustling with people, and most of them seemed pretty normal. But now, almost everyone there seems to have something wrong with them. There was someone carrying a rubbish bin on his head, a group of teenagers standing in the middle of the footpath smoking and playing heavy metal music, and about ten homeless guys. The central square becomes an intimidating place from about 2-4, with schoolkids filling it and staring at you as you walk past, homeless people lingering outside cafes, and buskers playing above average sounding music and making you ashamedly walk past them trying to avoid eye contact.
Town is a very different place from a few years ago. The Base, with its modern buildings and convenient access, has made the CBD look decidedly run down. It’s competing with something very expensive and time consuming to compete against: the new. Attempts have been made to revitalize the CBD, with a strip of modern restuarants and a slightly refreshed mall, but really, I don’t see anything changing. Consumers want modernity, convenience and really, just the new thing. The Base is better in almost every way, and the CBD needs to change into something different to bring back consumers. I don’t know what that is, but considering the recent lackluster attempts to change it, I’m not holding out much hope for the council knowing either.