A new entrance to Cambridge signals the booming town’s latest step in its reinvention since ridding itself of State Highway One traffic about 18 months ago.
A roundabout at St Andrews corner– a problematic controlled intersection for years – and the Good Union pub at the former iconic pink church now greet visitors from the north.
Traffic counts at the roundabout have increased to close to pre-bypass levels and the town of trees is bursting at the seams on the back of a burgeoning business scene and high profile events. There’s barely an empty shop and office space is at a premium. As the town basks in the afterglow of hosting 1500 World Masters Games athletes and prepares for the National Agricultural Fieldays onslaught on June 14, the boom shows no sign of abating.
Cambridge Chamber of Commerce chief executive Tania Witheford says the new roundabout which is close to finished, makes a real difference and opens up access to Lake Te Ko Utu.
“Having a physical attribute like that close to town is really significant. This reinforces that.”
The completion of the Lakewood development which began in March, will also connect the lake to the town better and complete the town’s reconfiguration.
Lakewood Cambridge is set to straddle three hectares of bare land off Queen St and overlook Lake Te Ko Utu. It has been designed, say the developers Greenstone Group, to complement Cambridge’s look – to more effectively connect the ‘hidden’ lake with the town. Lakewood comprises residential accommodation, retail, office space, food and beverage facilities, a medical centre and a gym.
Waipa mayor Jim Mylchreest says the new $3.1 million roundabout has worked really well. “There were obviously concerns about what it would do to traffic flow and if it was too extravagant in terms of cost.
Those were the main concerns. But I’ve had no complaints so that’s a really good indicator. And I’m pleased that retaining some of the trees at that intersection has kept some of the charm. It’s one of the things that is important for Cambridge, balancing growth with the image of wide streets and trees.”
“I’m really pleased we put a roundabout in rather than traffic lights or a controlled intersection. It’s nice to know that we got it right.”
Tania says the opening of Good Union has also had an impact on the town.
“The arrival of Good Union has really upped the ante with their street appeal as well as the fact that we have this capability there now that we didn’t have before.”
The former pink church building dating back to 1877 – now one of Good George Brewery’s pubs – is superbly placed at the entrance to the town.
Managers Adrian and Sue Hodgson acknowledge the location of the Good Union is “unbelievable”.
“It’s the first thing you see as you go around the new roundabout.”
“I think Good Union has been great for the community. It’s just another offering you know and I think Cambridge was definitely ready for something else.”
Good Union is just one of more than 20 new businesses or changes of ownership that have occurred in Cambridge over the last year, says Tania.
“There’s a raft of different businesses which have arrived or have changed hands. These are new people identifying the opportunity that Cambridge has from a business perspective but also that whole package from a lifestyle- live work, play and invest proposition.”
Adrian and Sue moved into Cambridge with the opening of Good Union in December and have settled happily into the town, ensuring the pub gives back to the community through sponsorships.
“There’s always something happening over here and because it’s a small town you are more aware of what’s going on. It’s definitely a buzzy town and there are some beautiful areas here too.”
Hamilton businessman Andrew Stevenson bought Cambridge business, Hanson Creative in January.
Andrew who specialises in digital marketing, website design and brand design and strategy, owns Cube Media and saw an expansion opportunity when he acquired Hanson Creative.
He still lives in Hamilton but is contemplating a move to Cambridge.
“Since I’ve been here I’m in contact with a lot of new businesses coming to Cambridge. A lot of people are relocating to Cambridge from urban centres like Auckland. There’s been a lot of growth in the time I’ve been living in Hamilton.
“I quite like working in Cambridge. I like the feel of the place. When you are doing business with people it’s a matter of just walking down the road and seeing them.”
Andrew has also noticed that there is increased competition from Cambridge businesses as they sense they need to lift their game.
“I’ve noticed from my own experience with approaches to our business that they are starting to think more about engaging their customers.”
Tania agrees she’s also noticed businesses working harder to beat the competition.
“People have upped the ante. For example you are seeing new cafes, more changes of menu as businesses try to cater more for customers’ needs.”
A new business which has started because of a lack of office space and meeting facilities in Cambridge is Meraki Workspace.
Susanne Lorenz, Emma Sinclair and Rachel O’Reilly started the business a year ago.
“People say there’s not enough space for home-based businesspeople and professional people generally to have meetings,” says Susanne.
“Some meetings you can have at a café but others need a more private environment. Cambridge has a real shortage of office space.”
Meraki Workspace’s premises on Victoria St have a main space where four of the six permanent desks are occupied. A few people use the hot desking space but more education is needed to get better use, says Susanne.
The facility also features a boardroom for up to 20 people and a smaller office for one on one meetings.
Susanne is glowing of Cambridge.
“Cambridge is great. When I first came here I couldn’t believe what a buzzy little town it is. It’s gone from strength to strength. New developments like Lakewood will only make it even better.”
Tania says the impact of events is absolutely critical to Cambridge and with more than 100 event days a year at Mystery Creek, the proximity of the Avantidrome and Lake Karapiro often in use, Cambridge is extremely lucky.
“We are probably the envy of other destinations in New Zealand to have so many events.”
“Whenever we have an event we are increasing our population up to 4000 or 5000 a week. So there is a spin off for businesses and you see it in our pedestrian counts during those periods which are about 30 percent higher than usual.”
She says Cambridge has some strong accommodation options including a recent arrival, Kelly Road Cambridge Lodge. The newly opened boutique lodge on the corner of Kelly and Cambridge Roads adds 22 rooms to Cambridge’s accommodation stocks. The recent World Masters Games which saw athletes competing at the Avantidrome and at Lake Karapiro created “phenomenal interaction” in Cambridge.
“Our cafes and restaurants were full every night. It was heaving. There was great spending, visitors satisfaction was extremely high. This was aided by the way the community embraced the games, the Autumn Festival which ran over this period and the highly successful Twilight Cycling Festival) not to mention the Finale event incorporating an artisan food street market, entertainment and other activations.”
The completion of the Lakewood development is highly anticipated and Greenstone Group development manager Ben Jones says there has been plenty of interest in apartments and retail space.
“The development is well advanced and is currently under construction. Earthworks, in-ground services, infrastructure, and roading are underway at the moment with the first building foundations set to be poured in approximately one month’s time,” he says.
“The development comprises what we call a mixed-use environment, being an integrated development comprising both retail/commercial as well as residential elements.
“The development has approximately 300 carparks onsite for easy visitation and will predominantly comprise (amongst other uses) cafes, restaurants, gastropub, leading takeaway food offerings, gym, childcare, retail, convenience, health and beauty, offices, pharmacy and services in addition to residential apartments and townhouses.”