HISTORIC MOMENT: Hundreds of people turn out to commemorate the completion of the first stage of the Peel St beautification project on August 12, 1995. A CITY’S SOUL: Councillor Phil Betts, LJ Hooker co-principal Richie Thornton and businesswoman Carolyn Manning reflect on Peel Street’s transformation throughout the years. Photo: Gareth Gardner 280415GGC03
A BOLD decision to embark on an ambitious 11-year redevelopment of the CBD has been credited with paving the way for Tamworth’s enduring economic growth.
Today marks 20 years since the first stage of the visionary multi-million-dollar Peel St beautification project was officially opened with a gala street party.
Stage one, focusing on the stretch between Brisbane and Fitzroy streets, saw footpaths widened, trees planted and seats, lights and bollards erected.
The plans to transform Peel St into a boulevard, which were put out for public consultation in 1992-93, initially met with considerable resistance.
Many residents kicked up a stink over the council’s proposal to narrow the thoroughfare and cut the number of kerbed parking spaces.
But Tamworth mayor Col Murray said the community is now reaping the benefits of the council staying true to its vision.
“I think it’s been absolutely fantastic,” he said. “The CBD is the strongest indicator of a city’s soul and how vibrant it is economically.
“The CBD needs to be busy and vibrant and have a good mix of multi-national and national, as well as ‘mum and dad’ companies.”
LJ Hooker Tamworth co-principal Richie Thornton said he had never seen the Peel St precinct in such good health.
“Having been born in Tamworth, I’ve seen the transition of the main street over the years and I have to say I have never seen it look as good as it does now,” he said.
“It shouldn’t be underestimated because it made the CBD come of age and I think the CBD would now be in a lot of trouble if those decisions had not been made.”
John Lobban, who owns the Purseglove’s and Cutting Point buildings, said the then planning minister’s decision in the early 2000s to stop a planned expansion of Shoppingworld was crucial to the CBD’s growth.
Cr Murray said he was desperate to find the funds to proceed with plans for a planned$6 million upgrade to link the CBD to Bicentennial Park.
He said the redevelopment of Fitzroy St and Kable Ave could create a “mini-Martin Place” that would drive a fresh wave of investment.
“Tamworth has been pretty much at the vanguard of beautifying our CBD, but I honestly think that mantle has diminished over the last few years.
“I think, in reality, we should have been doing the next stage about five years ago, so I don’t think we can afford to wait much longer.”
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