PARKLETS and cycle lanes are set to add new life to Hunter Street as early as next year if council approves the trial.
The proposed trial by Newcastle City Council draws on similar projects in the UK, New York and San Francisco, the latter having played a pioneering role in the use of parklets, an extension of the footpath that typically includes seating, landscaping and bike racks.
Cycleways will be built on both sides of a 1.6-kilometre stretch of Hunter Street, between Bellevue Street in the West End to Perkins Street, at the start of the mall, while the parklets will sprout between Auckland and Crown streets.
Under the scheme, the four travel lanes in Hunter Street will be reduced to two, with the current parking lanes remaining intact.
Council’s city centre program manager Tim Askew said the small changes would not affect parking or public transport use in Hunter Street and council research indicated reducing the travel lanes was feasible.
He said the scheme, which will be placed on public exhibition on Monday, would build on the council’s recent facade improvement and placemaking initiatives to breathe life into the central business district.
‘‘It’s really the first step in reactivating Hunter Street with a focus on bringing people back into the city,’’ he said.
‘‘Research shows that separating pedestrians further from the traffic creates a feeling of comfort and safety.’’
Mr Askew said the parklet and cycleway proposals were included in the Hunter Street masterplan developed by council in 2010, which in turn had been recommended for trial in the state government’s Newcastle Urban Renewal Strategy last year.
He said council did not have a final costing on the plan but it was designed to be low-cost, with materials used able to be easily removed, pending the government releasing more detail on the urban renewal strategy.
‘‘There are still many unknowns with the light rail and where the exact location of interchange will be, there are still studies to come,’’ he said.
‘‘Until we know where we are going and what the public transport system will be, we want to trial things and get things happening on the ground.’’
Forum on CBD plan
AN overview of the changing face of the central business district will be provided at a community forum on Tuesday.
Hosted by Newcastle NOW, the See Change forum at Noah’s On The Beach will include the big picture address by David Crofts, the former group manager of city strategy at Newcastle City Council.
Mr Crofts, a consultant engaged by Newcastle NOW to work with key groups responsible for projects across the CBD, said the city’s urban renewal was now moving from ‘‘the planning to doing’’ phase.
Newcastle MP Tim Owen will update the forum on progress in design work for both the Hunter Street mall and light rail system mooted in the Newcastle Urban Renewal Strategy.
Newcastle NOW executive manager Michael Neilson said the forum was a chance for the community and professionals to gain a complete picture of how the city was transforming and how to maximise the benefits.
The keynote speaker is Henriette Vamburg, director of the respected Copenhagen-based Gehl Architects, who will present examples of how urban design has led to city centre revitalisation in cities of similar scale to Newcastle.
She will remain in Newcastle for a few days after the forum to convene workshops that will focus on how to measure the economic, tourism and community benefits of improvements to the CBD.
Limited tickets available at newcastlenow.org.au