Going the extra mile to bring in business

A group of Blenheim businesses have identified the main growth opportunities for Blenheim’s town centre.

Business leaders thrashed out a gameplan for the town over the next three years at a CBD summit on Wednesday night.

Members of the Blenheim Business Association agreed their main priority should be the Marlborough Mile project.

If created, the trail would run through the central business district to celebrate the region’s history, major features and industries.

The trail could celebrate iwi and early settlers, the days of orchards and sheep farms, the modern era of wine and aquaculture, the aviation industry and, of course, the district’s reputation for being New Zealand’s sunshine capital.

The Marlborough Mile would appeal to visitors, teaching them about the region and giving them something else to do in the town, where they would then spend their money.

It was yet to be decided if sculptures or other art installations would be used to showcase Blenheim’s history, or whether interactive technology would be involved.

There was strong support among members for the establishment of a blue line, which would allow visitors to walk the Marlborough Mile to prominent places in town.

Marlborough Mile advocate Mark Davis said the trail would help give Blenheim an identity.

“It would showcase our story by connecting local industries in town,” Davis said.

Davis said events could be run off the back of the Marlborough Mile’s opening, such as a “fun run on the Marlborough Mile”.

There was also the potential to link into other Marlborough events and enhance them in future.

The next stage for the trail would be to gather public consultation from residents and business owners.

The association earmarked more business attractions, such as a monthly night market, as its next priority.

This was followed by the pedestrianisation of two roads in Blenheim’s central shopping district.

Businesses predicted the removal of vehicle traffic would increase turnover for retailers within the car-free zones, as it had in Auckland and Christchurch.

Another top-voted target was the development of major events in Blenheim.

This included building new events and the leveraging of existing events – such as Feast Marlborough, Saint Clair Vineyard Half Marathon and the Forrest GrapeRide – for local tourism.

A one-hour free parking scheme also received a strong vote, as business owners believed it would encourage localised shopping.

Parking, excluding kerbside parking, in Blenheim was metered at $1 an hour.

Growth opportunities were identified on Wednesday following an hour-long presentation on business expansion in Blenheim.

Speeches were made by Davis, association chairman Anthony Mullen and Pounamu Tourism Group managing director Paul Jackson.

Mullen said the exercise would help direct the association’s focus in the coming years.

“Our vision is to create a CBD that is the heart of Marlborough,” Mullen said.

“We want to create a smart and connected town with vibrant, varied retail.”

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