Cuba St Link Stage 1 is the first stage of a strategic streetscape project in Palmerston North aiming to link the City Centre to Central Energy Trust Arena.
This project forms a higher long term strategic goal of revitalising the City Centre to be a destination with increased vibrancy and activation where major events ca better connect with retail, restaurants and accommodation.
Cuba St runs in a west-east direction and extends through the North East Heritage Area of the City known as ‘Little Cuba’ where many start-up businesses, cafes, boutique shops, artists and creative industries exist. Prior to the change Cuba St was wide, bleak, cold and windy street where car parking prevailed and many buildings were run down or vacant.
Stage 1 was the result of aligning a range of discrete roading renewal projects budgets – footpaths, stormwater, kerbing, sealing. Combining these projects allowed the project team to rethink how the street could look, provide for improved walkable experience as well as be a catalyst for private investment on the back of the streetscape change.
The project team worked closely with building owners and businesses along the street allowing the community to offer up resources where possible to contribute to the design of the street. This allowed for the community to be involved and take ownership of their space.
Local company, Blacksheep Design offered to develop a concept for new street tree frames that expressed and spatially expanded the Little Cuba identity along this section of street upgrade. Taking colour cues from existing architecture along the street, the response was to develop an array of complementary colours through the streetscape that expressed the energy and diversity of Little Cuba.
Other elements such as wide footpath in front of buildings, road narrowing, raised crossing platforms, street trees, grass and plantings were also employed to provide more room for public realm activation for businesses, generous promenade walking space with views of old buildings and access to sunlight, reduced parking and slower traffic speeds resulting in a City Centre street environment that catered for people more than cars.
Since completing the upgrade, most buildings are now being redeveloped or are tenanted, road speeds have dropped 10km per hour on average and business owners and the community are reclaiming the street for other purposes, leading out place activation such as markets, outdoor seating and road murals.
The inspiration for the colour scheme for the posts resulted from wanting to spatially extend the ‘Little Cuba’ identity along the street as well as looking at the colour schemes of the surrounding architectural context.
A rainbow of hues now meanders up the street in clusters of colours, using Resene Irresistible, Resene Deep Sea, Resene Bowie, Resene Wham, Resene Neva, Resene Half Limerick, Resene Broom, Resene Bright Spark, Resene West Side, Resene California, Resene Adrenalin, Resene Roadster and Resene Havoc.
The project team took an ‘on the street’ approach to working with local community. They established an onsite project office in an old disused butcher shop where progress updates and interesting finds were displayed in the window including an old wooden horse hitching rail and various old petrol pipe caps/bottles etc. Meetings and drop in sessions were held at local cafes along the street, where the public could meet and chat with the project design team. A stop work was even planned so the local childcare centre children could meet the contractors and play on the machinery.
With an eye on the future, the tree posts have been designed in such a way that once no longer required by trees for support, the posts can be used to fix interpretation panels along the street that celebrate the street’s commercial, sports and military heritage.
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