Prince St, Grafton
Prince St, Grafton

BEHIND THE DESK: What to do with Prince St?

TIM HOWARD

THE time for excuses about the state of Grafton’s main drag, Prince St, is over.

With the opening of the new bridge and the highway bypass, the Jacaranda City can no longer tolerate dithering over improving the look of its showcase thoroughfare.

Just on two years ago former Grafton Chamber of Commerce president Des Harvey returned from Tamworth with some interesting observations on what that city had been able to achieve in Peel St, 10m narrower than Prince St and with fewer other natural advantages.

Mr Harvey said his research on the New England as well as Burnie in Tasmania and Murwillumbah just to our north revealed there were some key issues, like parking, which needed find solutions.

And to our south, the city of Taree revealed how a bottom-up rather than a top down strategy of renewal could move things forward.

After more than a decade in the doldrums after the 1997 bypass, in 2013 the community responded to with a campaign to clean up the CBD and introduce colourful attractions to the area.

After some planning more than 100 business people turned out with brooms and mops to give their city a makeover.

Not content with the clean-up the community moved onto beautification projects to turn the town centre into a destination.

Grafton has plenty of examples to inspire its next step. We have to stop making excuses and get on with it.

LESLEY APPS

It’s great people are passionate about what happens to Prince St. It feels like the weight of the bypass is on the precinct’s shoulders from Grafton’s perspective of 13km away from the highway action.

I do judge a town on its main street and in Grafton’s case it could be a lot better – but every second person knows that.

Still, talk of closing it off to encourage more pedestrian activity isn’t the conversation starter I imagined.

With Case A in Armidale, and Case C in Coffs Harbour, both produced ghetto-like spaces that never recovered – Coffs admitted that when they spent millions turning it back into a thoroughfare. These should be mistakes Grafton can save time and money by learning from.

With our enviable wide main street, the glut of space could be tailored to encourage shoppers and visitors to stay around the CBD longer without banning cars and parking.

But first things first. With a hotchpotch of butchered facades, inappropriate corporate colours and stupidly big signage screaming at you from every angle, it doesn’t really say heritage precinct. Team that with a footpath made up of mismatched concrete slabs and uninviting public seating next to filthy bins, you don’t need the team from The Block to tell you what needs to be zhuzhed to bring it into line with 21st century shopping standards.

Trees, trees and more trees and uniform greenery will mask the flaws, while wider, paved footpaths will kickstart the alfresco scene it needs.

This isn’t the first time I’ve harped on about Prince St and its possibilities and won’t be the last. Bring on the changes.