(Photo: Thames War Memorial Civic Centre, on Mary Street - could this space be converted to a vibrant town centre plaza?) We have an opportunity to reimagine what the central area of Thames around the intersection of Pollen and Mary streets could look and feel like thanks to funding from Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency. Beyond the general goal of creating a people friendly public space in the heart of town that will keep residents and visitors coming back for more, what any changes look like is up to the people of Thames. The project, which we’re calling Create the Vibe – Thames, has received 90 per cent funding ($320,125.50) from Waka Kotahi. The remaining 10 per cent ($35,569.50) is coming from Thames Community Board budgets. It’s part of Waka Kotahi’s Innovating Streets pilot programme, which is funding projects across New Zealand cities and towns aimed at creating people-friendly spaces. The projects are to involve cost effective, temporary interventions that the community has a large role in helping to design. The improvements can be tested and refined before being made more permanent if they’re found suitable. “We want to encourage locals and visitors to stay longer and be safe and comfortable in the centre of Thames,” says Thames Community Board Chair Strat Peters. “Waka Kotahi is providing us with the opportunity to try some new things to create a real vibrant civic heart in town that will support local businesses and encourage social interaction, at very little cost to Thames ratepayers.” The Create the Vibe – Thames project team is finalising a plan to get the community involved in co-designing a thriving public space in the heart of town. Get your thinking caps on now, because we’ll be setting up the Create the Vibe – Thames HQ in early September near the intersection and we’ll want to hear from you about your ideas to create a buzzing civic heart that people will want to spend time in and return to again and again. To help get the creative juices flowing, and to enter to win a $50 Pak 'n' Save voucher, we've got a few questions in a very short survey: Click here to take our Create the Vibe - Thames survey and be in to win a $50 Pak 'n' Save voucher. This map of central Thames and the image of Pollen Street will show you the area we're working in: Watch our Council’s website, subscribe to our enewsletters and like and follow us on Facebook to stay up to date with Create the Vibe – Thames. The improvements to the Thames CBD as a result the Innovating Streets project, in terms of changing the street landscaping, that can be made permanent, can inform the Long Term Plan for 2021-2031 (LTP). The LTP goes out for public consultation early in 2021 and that’s when more detailed planning, budgets and the effect on rates will be available for people to examine and give our Council feedback on. Some background information: The Thames+ Urban Development Strategy was drawn up in 2013 with the close involvement of the Thames community. A key finding of the strategy is that Thames currently lacks a "heart" - a space for community to gather, to hold events and invoke a sense of togetherness. The Design Factory NZ at Wintec sent two groups of students to investigate the question 'How might the Thames CBD be reimagined into a safe, inviting and thriving area?' Both groups interviewed Council staff and elected members, people in the business community and residents and visitors. Both groups found that people think the Thames main street is "tired and unkempt" and "empty and outdated". One group advocated better lighting to make the CBD more attractive and the other suggested a "little big space" in the CBD where Council, business, youth and community could interact and collaborate. You can watch the students present their ideas on this video on the Design Factory NZ Facebook page: www.facebook.com/DesignFactoryNZ/videos/292717781910460 “We have an opportunity to revitalise the CBD area through the creation of a functional, vibrant, centrally located public place alongside a vibrant Pollen Street,”says Erin Bates, our Council’s District Placemaking and Thames Area Manager. Other work on the go: Public space "activation": we're looking at zero or very low cost options about how our existing public spaces in the Thames CBD can be better utilised as safe gathering places for people of all ages, whether for planned events or to relax for a while. Murals for the Baxters Furniture wall next to Rotary Park (outside Thames Library) and Stirling Sports' Mary Street wall. Temporary art installations – a project the Thames Public Art Trust is leading. Bringing the Hauraki Rail Trail into the CBD. We're also working on getting the zoning right in the corridor from Thames down to Kopu and beyond to Puriri so that we have options around housing and commercial development. This is the Thames Spatial Plan work. “We’d love to hear from people who have ideas about how to make the town centre active and buzzing,” says Ms Bates. Drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts.