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"It's going to be an asset": Councillor Jack Evans sticks solid with all-new Lords Place

July 12, 2023




By Peter Holmes


Councillor Jack Evans has defended the Lords Place south redevelopment in an interview with The Orange News Examiner.


Evans says that once the weather warms, more furniture is in place, and the new trees get a season or two under their belts, the space will become a valued part of the Orange CBD.



I spoke to him at Nimrod's Cafe on Lords Place south.




The Orange News Examiner: What would you like to say about Lords Place?


Evans: I moved the motion and voted in favour of the Lords Place upgrade [last August]. I’m a local resident born and bred with deep family roots [in the area] and I understand the city’s vibe and culture.


Lords Place during redevelopment. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.


One thing is for sure, and that is that Orange isn’t the same city I grew up in, when the saleyards were still in the middle of the town, we only had one Maccas, and one Woolies.





I think the community at its heart is still the same, we’re still the Colour City. I value our streetscapes and our trees and I believe, yes, this is a contentious issue, but once we get the decking in place and the trees start to mature it’s going to be an asset to those values we already have.

I’m still supportive of the project, but there certainly have been some criticisms that I think are very fair. Criticisms over the painting, particularly with the kerb and guttering, and the kerbs have been painted white so it's not so much of a trip hazard.



People are not too happy with the painting altogether, and I suppose at the end of the day the painting is not permanent and if we want to reassess the design down the track as it starts to wear we can certainly do that.


Lords Place during development. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

I'm a big fan of the replanted trees and the pots and I think councillor [Melanie] McDonell’s initiative to investigate the schools getting involved in painting them is very worthwhile - [but] pricing would be good.




Across the 12 councillors it's very, very diverse now, so everyone can sort of represent a different demographic.


The demographic I spoke to [about Lords Place] were generally a bit younger. I’ve got nothing against anyone older but that’s just who I speak to and generally they were in favour of this.

The query from everyone in the community was about the parking.



Once you explained that we were going to look at an expression of interest for Ophir [car park], we’re going to try and encourage a bit more walkability, then generally people I spoke to were OK with that.



An artist's design for Lords Place. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.


[Before the vote] I rang the business chamber and said ‘Have you heard from any businesses, and has anyone told you they reject it outright?’ and they said ‘No we haven't’.





Even with the vote - when you have contentious issues you have people coming to speak against the matter [in the public forum before each council meeting] and no-one actually turned up to speak.



I think if there were a lot of strong feelings that really would have made a difference to the vote. Whether it would have overturned it altogether I don't know, but it may have swayed some people. I can't speak for them.


Q: A lot of businesses here are not happy.


I don’t think the stress businesses were under, particularly at that construction phase, was lost on anybody. I certainly felt for them, but tried to keep the bigger picture in mind of what benefits could this bring long-term?


Lords Place during development. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.


Q: Is it true that there hasn’t been the level of interest hoped for in redeveloping the Ophir car park site?


I can't comment on that.



Q: Should Ophir car park have been dealt with before Lords Place?


I think yes, probably it should've been a little bit further ahead. In hindsight that would've been good.


I'm also a bit critical of how long it's taken to get some of the furniture on some of the unused dining decks.

Up until two weeks ago we were having 15 degree days and I think we've probably missed an opportunity now because we’re in the thick of winter - until late August.





Q: Fifteen degree days!

For Orange, it’s beautiful.



Lords Place during development. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

Q: Fair enough.


I probably wouldn’t sit on the concrete [benches]. When you see them sitting out on the sunnier side [he points to Crema cafe] it’s quite nice.


[But] coming back to the dining decks. In my business mind I don't blame people for opting [to not take exclusive use]. Why would you, if the council is going to put it there?

The chances are your customers will probably sit there anyway and you don't have to pay for the furniture or insurance, so why would you?




This is probably the most diverse Orange City Council, and it’s a different city to what it was 25 years ago when some of our incumbent councillors got on, so it’s a different way of thinking going on now, and I think this is one of the first projects in NSW like this, and it hasn’t always gone smoothly.



I think we've taken a lot of learnings out of it, particularly with the rollout.


McNamara Street car park. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

Tatty flags on Mcnamara now gone. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

Q: What do you think of McNamara Street?


I don’t mind McNamara - we walk up there [to Lords Place, from the family business Worklocker on Peisley Street] and it looks way better than it did before. At least it’s made it brighter and more vibrant. Whether the dollars tag associated with it [was reasonable], that was the previous council, but generally I like it.


The CBD is starting to look tired and I think we've taken a few risks to try and do something proactive, otherwise in five years time the headline might read “Orange is tired, council’s done nothing to make it look better".

We’ve taken a risk and if we go ahead with any more … hopefully you would think we’ve learnt stuff from communications, consultations and overall rollout.



Q: Would you deem the Lords Place project as a success, a failure, or too soon to say?


Broadly speaking I think it is going to be a success, particularly once we get the decks with the last bits of furniture on them and the trees have maybe a season or two to get a bit of growth, particularly in the summer when the colours come out.




You look through the lens of winter, the trees are like a stick, but once we get some colour into them I think it's going to be really good.


Councillor Kevin Duffy. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

Q: Nine councillors voted for the $1.4 million project last August and three against. Councillor Kevin Duffy, who is a vocal critic, told me this will become an issue at next year’s elections. Agree?


Potentially. I think we might get stung a little bit, and I wouldn't blame the community for doing that, but you've got to remember Lords Place isn’t the only thing council does.



Mel [McDonell] and I are trying to get a footpath out at Lucknow; Dave [Mallard] is looking at a lot of affordable and social housing stuff.


Everyone's bringing something to the table and Lords Place isn’t the only aspect.



If he wants to make it an election issue he’s welcome to. I think people look at things a bit more broadly. If you listen to the last council meeting we've taken the criticism, we need to adjust the parking. Nobody has said we've got it perfect.


The vote in August 2022.


State MP Phil Donato, who is moving his office onto Lords Place south, commented on one of our stories, saying he thought council would have consulted with business about cutting the parking time limits before - and not after - doing it.


I wouldn't say we’re [only] going to consult business now. I won't comment on the operational side of it, but I will say the GHD [design] report said if you introduce paid parking and the [lower the time limits] you’ll create more spaces.


Look at this barber shop Mane Man. Fifteen minutes. That’s no use to them.


I reckon we’ll see some change.


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