Merimbula Chamber’s plans for town beautification.

Beach Street Merimbula
An artists impression of what a Beach St Activation might look like

The Merimbula Chamber of Commerce recently ran a workshop focusing on the beautification of the town centre. The workshop was attended by key staff from Bega Valley Shire Council, other stakeholders and was funded by the Federal and State Governments.

The workshop objectives were to work with Council to contemporise aspects from the 2014 Spiire Master plan, to identify a number of key elements that could be activated with existing funding and also create new visions for three major precincts at Hylands Corner, Market St and Beach St.

President of the Chamber Nigel Ayling said, “This has been a long process and goes back to the Town Summit which we ran in 2021 which identified a 10 point action plan which we have been working on ever since. Whilst we made a lot of progress on most of the actions, we needed to invest more time into the number one priority which was the CBD upgrade. The funding we received through Resilience NSW allowed us to take a deeper look at the town centre and work with Council on a modern plan.”

The workshop was facilitated by local consultants NGH and Urban Design experts from Hansen Partnership in Melbourne. “It was vital that we had all the key staff from Council there to discuss the ideas and have their input and advice about what can be achieved. During the workshop we identified one key project that we could deliver immediately which is to undertake a tree planting project along Main Street and Market Street,” Mr Ayling said.

Vice President of the Chamber James Smith who is managing the project said “We are very excited to be able to contribute to the greening of the town centre with these trees. It will create a beautiful canopy along the street and soften the streetscape. We are very grateful to the Merimbula Special Events committee who are jointly funding this with the Chamber. “

The Chamber has also put in another funding application to improve signage throughout the town and are hopeful that they will be able to implement that soon too.

As for the major upgrades, James Kelly from Hansen Partnerships says, “We were very pleased to work with Merimbula Chamber of Commerce on this project. The council staff were very engaged in the process which meant we were able to work with them to identify the key elements of the Spiire Plan and bring them through to this new vision for the town. Our designers took those ideas and created visual representations of these areas that allow people to see how these spaces could be utilised.”

The plan identifies three key precincts starting with Hylands corner. This is identified as the “heart of town” because it is located directly opposite the post office and is the one key piece of council owned land. Whilst these projects aren’t funded yet, the plans are based on “tactical activations “ which can be more temporary and less expensive than major overhauls. Recommendations for this space include a Pop-up stage area, updated furniture, planter boxes and fairy lights. It also includes some traffic calming installations to make pedestrian traffic safer at the Merimbula Drive intersection.

(An artist’s impression of what a Hylands Corner activation zone might look like)

The other key area is on Beach Street around the location of the old Visitor Information Centre and focuses on opening up access to the lake. “This is Merimbula’s great asset in town and opening up this space for people to access the lake, and hold events along there would be a major draw card. Connecting Beach St to Market St and creating pedestrian friendly walkways is key to utlising these spaces,” said Mr Ayling.

One idea being floated which might be controversial is to convert some of the parking area on Beach St to be used in the entertainment precinct. Mr Ayling said, “We know that parking has been a problem in Merimbula for many years but the development of the new Woolworths and Aldi shops has added a significant amount of parking to the town. The car park along Beach St is prime land and could be redeveloped to create a wonderful space to attract visitors. There are possibilities to move the existing parallel parking to perpendicular parking along the rest of Beach St similar to the ones already at the Eastern end of the street. You would effectively just move the parking further up the street but every car park would be looking straight at the lake, which is more of a feature anyway.”

He is also keen to point out that these “activations” can be run as a test to see how they work and then over time, if they are successful they can be converted into permanent changes.

“There is a lot in this report and whilst we are not in a position to deliver on all of it, we now have a clear plan which has the support of council and we can start looking for further funding to take action on some of these concepts. There has never been more funding around for projects like this, so now we have completed the ground work to move this forward,” he added.

The plan was released to it’s members on the 14th of October and is now available for download.

NSW Government

“This is a Bushfire Community Recovery and Resilience Fund project through the joint Commonwealth/State Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements.”

“Although funding for this product has been provided by both the Australian and NSW Governments, the material contained herein does not necessarily represent the views of either government”.