Pressing Play in the CBD


Hamilton’s CBD is about to get a long-awaited injection of activity.

Hamilton Central Business Association (HCBA) has been allocated an activation fund of $100,000 per year for three years by Hamilton City Council to bring activities and events to the CBD’s four major spaces – Garden Place, Civic Square, Victoria on the River and Embassy Park.

HCBA general manager Vanessa Williams and executive committee member Mike Neale believe the future is looking bright for Hamilton’s central city.

“Hamilton’s CBD is experiencing a resurgence with commercial activity, inner city living developments and increasing tourism numbers. This is currently well supported by the thriving café and restaurant culture and we now need to look to build the experience led activities in the CBD,” says Vanessa.

“It’s amazing how spaces transform with activation and with people. We need a calendar of activities that supports our growing city and those people that are choosing to visit and stay in Hamilton.”

Mike believes that now is the time for Hamilton to really shine.

“Statistical analysis of Hamilton’s CBD continues to show favourable results with central city spend steadily increasing and vacancy rates near their lowest in 15 years. Garden Place is in the throes of a mini-transformation with the library set to reopen, Stark properties’ recent purchase of a major building in Garden Place and Creative Waikato set to take over a prominent site near the opposite corner. These changes will all positively contribute to the Garden Place space”.

But Vanessa and Mike stress it is not just Garden Place to be utilised. Victoria on the River with is amphitheatre setting and “cool factor”, Embassy Park’s alternative vibe and the blank canvas of Civic Square all provide opportunities for events.

The key to the plan, Vanessa says, is to capitalise on what we already have in the city and the wider region. It is recognising major events through city decoration and banners, it’s looking to partner with existing community activities and seeing what can be reproduced in the CBD or even as a just a teaser to a bigger event that is happening in the region.


Victoria on the River is one of four public spaces set to benefit from a new CBD activation plan.

“We are looking to have things happening around the CBD on a continuous basis, which could be at one site at a time or through a series of sites. At this stage we are very open to the potential that exists. We are also mindful that events are only one part of activation. These spaces could benefit from art installations, popup parks, exercise classes and school holiday programmes”.

The plan starts in the July school holidays with a Winter Wonderland in Garden Place, featuring an ice skating rink, music, lighting and even an inflatable snow globe. At the peak of Winter this is an opportunity for Hamiltonians to embrace the cold, put on Winter woollies and skate through the second week of the school holidays.

Many other discussions for activities are currently underway and HCBA would like to see this result in pop-up micro sites of some of the region’s major tourist attractions, collaboration with the educational institutions to replicate activities in the CBD, more community groups enjoying the public spaces and exhibition or market opportunities from existing or potential businesses.

“Public spaces provide opportunities for people and this is what we want to see. We want Hamiltonians who haven’t been to the central city recently, to come in and enjoy what it has to offer.”

Mike believes we wouldn’t have been having this conversation a decade ago, but with the growing vibrancy created by the businesses, students and tourists, the timing is now perfect.

“People are coming back on a daily basis and we want to ensure we give them reasons to keep coming back.

“I would love to see local and national sports stars attracting crowds in to our CBD. I would love to see a varied calendar of events and attractions so people get into the habit of expecting activities to be on in the city.”

As Hamilton city grows, so do the expectations of what a city can provide. HCBA says it is looking to meet these expectations head on with a cohesive programme of activity, to be enjoyed by locals and visitors alike.

CBD gets an ‘advantage’

Hamilton Central Business Association (HCBA) has launched a new initiative challenging the 22,000 people who work in Hamilton’s CBD to “take advantage”.

Targeting the workers in the CBD, every fortnight an email will be sent out to those who have registered, detailing special meal deals, retail discounts and a one-off freebie for those who are fast enough.

Based on a worker programme being run in Australia, HCBA saw the opportunity to do something similar in Hamilton’s central city and has launched the CBD ‘Advantage’ Club for workers. Vanessa Williams, HCBA general manager, sees the advantage for both people who work in the CBD and businesses based in the CBD.

“It is about creating awareness of what fantastic businesses we have here in the city and motivating people to go to them.”

To join Advantage Club, email with your name, business name and contact email and reap the reward of working in the CBD.


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Geoff Taylor

Waikato Business News editor Geoff Taylor. Email: