Studio appointed for design strand of City Hub project

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Published: 23 Nov 2021

The multi-million plan to guide growth and investment in Timaru City Centre over the next decade and beyond has taken a major step forward with the appointment of an innovative urban design studio.

Isthmus Group have been appointed as urban design consultants to work with council and community stakeholders to deliver the master plan for the Timaru District Council’s City Hub project.

The designers, which have been involved in projects such as the upgrade of streetscapes in Auckland’s Newmarket and the Invercargill City Centre, were among six companies from across New Zealand and Australia tendering for the work.

They will be working in collaboration with award-winning Christchurch placemaking social enterprise Gap Filler, which was behind a huge number of innovative projects in the wake of the Canterbury Earthquakes and has since undertaken projects across New Zealand.

The company was selected based on their proven track record on relevant projects around New Zealand, good depth of experienced staff and having the project team leaders based in Christchurch enabling easily access to Timaru.

A new website which will feature project updates, background documents and enable people to sign up for updates and provide feedback has now been launched at

Timaru District Mayor Nigel Bowen welcomed the project reaching its next stage, saying a key aspect of the Isthmus proposal was their demonstrated ability to bring the community on the journey to get behind redevelopment projects.

“Having Isthmus and Gap Filler on board will mean that work can start this summer on the first stages of the project,” he said.

“The changing nature of cities and the challenging retail environment means that we have to be highly strategic to ensure that council and private investments work in tandem to ensure long term sustainability and vibrancy

“We are looking forward to being able to draw on the significant experience of Isthmus and Gap Filler as we start to work with business, the community and building owners to plan a bright future for Timaru City.”

Helen Kerr from Isthmus said they are really pleased to be part of the Timaru City Hub project at a time when the city is dreaming big and backing itself.

“Isthmus and Gap Filler have come together to build on the excellent work already done in Timaru to amplify, enable and test untapped potential of the city and bay.

“Both are based in Ōtautahi Christchurch and have collaborated on many projects that explore how people interact with their cities.

“This is a unique and ambitious brief—a unique opportunity to meaningfully evolve public spaces to catalyse investment and draw people in.

“Together their approach builds local capacity and deepens relationships within the community. Isthmus is a leading design studio who are regenerating Aotearoa by connecting land, people and culture.”

The company says recent work for New Plymouth, Napier, and Invercargill, and the Auckland neighbourhood Tāmaki, as illustrating how they tap into local place stories and build new and purposeful ideas.

Isthmus started the New Plymouth Foreshore redevelopment more than 20 years ago and recently returned to develop the Ngāmotu New Plymouth City Centre Strategy. In partnership with Ngāti Te Whiti it looks ahead to the city becoming a cultural, leisure and community hub, putting steps in place to leverage existing natural assets.

“We are urbanists and curious about new ways to do things, and aim to be pioneers in our approach to community participatory design for towns and cities from Northland to Southland,” said Helen.

“We look forward to embracing the can-do innovation of Timaru people and helping us reimagine how to experience our city.”

Last updated: 23 Nov 2021