Tamworth's Fitzroy Street and Bicentennial Park project has won praise from the NSW state architect, who used the mall upgrade as an "outstanding example" of how to conduct community consultation.
Abbie Galvin, Government Architect of NSW, said the $4.5 million scheme by Tamworth Regional Council (TRC) was a success worth noting.
She said the project is an example of how "healthy built environment" has benefits not just in terms of environment, climate and air quality but also good for "mental health".
"In regional areas even more importantly almost than city areas we need to focus on how you can bring communities together when they are physically, often, very far apart," she said.
The street upgrade, which was announced in 2017, was designed to create a friendlier pedestrian experience on Fitzroy Street. The neighboring section of Bicentennial Park also got a face-lift.
It became controversial because the plan initially involved completely eliminating parking in the mall area. It was also modified to add extra shade after council's former planning director Brent McAlister said the scheme "hadn't worked".
The project has been included as one of 10 case studies in the newly-released urban planning guidebook 'Urban Design for Regional NSW'.
Ms Galvin said she was particularly impressed with the process of consultation TRC undertook for the mall upgrade.
In an unusual and "forward thinking" move, TRC not only talked to local residents, but non-residents who were attendees at the Tamworth Country Music Festival.
When asked if the process was unique, the state architect said she couldn't think of another example where a council took the same approach.
"I think that was a really fascinating part of it actually," she said.
"What it shows is Tamworth saying as a community, actually we understand what is important about this place."
TRC's integrated planning manager Genevieve Harrison said council's town planning department were "very excited" about the endorsement of their work and their consultation process.
"Because we're an events destination we felt it was important to gather as much input and feedback as possible," she said.
"The centre of town is an events space, not only for the Country Music Festival, but obviously the Fiesta La Peel."
But the street upgrade isn't finished yet, she said. Council plans to add vegetation to the streets' shade umbrellas and install festive lighting across the street.
Ms Harrison said the consultation process conducted for the Fitzroy Street upgrade would inform their process for developing detailed design plans for Kable Avenue and a cultural precinct on Peel Street as part of the massive Blueprint 100 planning scheme.