The City of Launceston is considering a trial similar to the 90-minute free parking policy in place at three multi-storey car parks in central Hobart.
But city leaders and planning experts who spoke at a CBD revitalisation forum in Launceston on Wednesday were cautious about free parking, and increasing parking spaces, as a way of boosting CBD activity.
Councillor Hugh McKenzie said council had noticed the popularity of the 90 minutes of free parking in Hobart, and a trial in Launceston appeared likely.
"I think council was up for a discussion about that some time this month and it will be interesting to see how that eventuates," he said.
"I’m concerned that may be a sugar hit and whether the real issues in the CBD are different to that.
"I personally believe that if we don’t trial it, we’ll never know."
The policy in Hobart includes the Centrepoint car park, Argyle Street car park and Hobart Central car park. The Paterson Street car parks in Launceston offer free parking after 3.30pm every day.
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The City of Launceston last year carried out a study which found 90 per cent of people would walk two minutes from the car to their destination, and 71 per cent would walk five minutes, indicating that very few people were seeking a car park right in front of shops.
The forum - held as part of State Bike Week - heard from University of Tasmania architecture and design lecturer Helen Norrie, who said car parking was only one aspect of urban design.
"The problem that we have here in Launceston is not unique," she said.
Ms Norrie cited Revitalising Geelong as an example of successful urban renewal, which built on the city's waterfront tourism and the presence of Deakin University close to its CBD.
She said "character" was the most important aspect for a city - particularly given Launceston's status as Australia's most intact urban colonial environment - and it was not always about retail, but a "diversity of uses".
The ground floor vacancy rate of nine per cent in Launceston was the lowest it has been since at least 2014, the forum heard.
Cityprom board director Andrew Pitt said while it was sad to see some long-term unique CBD businesses close down, others were continually opening.
"What we are seeing however is a gradual shift away from retail as the primary CBD anchor towards other types of anchors, particularly hospitality and services, but also increasingly inner city living," he said.
"So rather than a CBD that is in an irreversible spiral of decline, what we have is a city centre that is changing in response to how global trends are playing out locally."
At least 30 spaces above businesses in Launceston are being converted into housing after the City of Launceston successful had legislation changed to remove a range of barriers.
Questions at the forum included measures to address shopfront vacancies in Quadrant Mall, improving heritage facades, the lack of action on a range of council studies into the CBD, a free tram from Seaport to UTAS once the Inveresk move was completed, and greater seating in the Brisbane Street Mall.