Changes for central Tauranga

By John Cousins

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The rejuvenation of Tauranga's downtown has been given a huge boost by two new office developments that will add at least another 550 people to the workforce in the CBD.

Developer Peter Cooney's $10 million office building on the corner of Willow St and Harington St has joined ambitious plans to put a new face on the run-down northern end of the downtown.

He had signed up three tenants and was negotiating with two others to fill the four-level 3000sq m office building which was currently the site of the Empire (formerly Illuminati) and Route 67 night clubs.

The final go-ahead awaits council planning consent for the building which will front on to Aspen Reserve. Mr Cooney was confident he would get consent because it complied in almost every respect. However, his project would be dwarfed by TrustPower's plans to relocate its head office at Te Maunga to a new office building somewhere in the CBD.

TrustPower's communications manager Graeme Purchase said the new building would need to accommodate up to 450 people. The company had received at least 10 expressions of interest from downtown landowners, including Zariba Holdings which owns the Bay of Plenty Times building.

Mr Cooney and Zariba had formed a joint venture in a bid to redevelop the Durham St property for TrustPower. It would involve demolishing the old building which was an earthquake risk.

The Bay of Plenty Times was moving to what was currently the Opus building on the corner of Cameron Rd and 7th Ave. The paper's general manager David Mackenzie said the shift was planned to take place in July.

Mr Cooney has signed up one of the tenants of the Opus building, the New Zealand Transport Agency, and he agreed that another prospective tenant was Opus. New Zealand Customs was another confirmed tenant.

Mr Cooney's announcement followed the opening in November of his last big development, the $30 million ANZ Building on the corner of Cameron Rd and Elizabeth St. Another addition to the downtown's skyline in November was the $13.5 million Sharpe Tudhope Building on the corner of Devonport Rd and 1st Avenue.

The other key development to rejuvenate the northern end of downtown was the $20 million-plus plan to demolish a run-down group of buildings on the other side of the road to the nightclubs.

Lady Rose Dairy, a company associated with Tauranga's Waddell family, obtained consent from the council late last year for a retail/entertainment/office development occupying a big chunk of the block between The Strand and Willow St (pictured top left).

A spokesman for the development, Peter Williams of Veros Property Partners, said they were now actively canvassing for tenants. They could stage the development which would face on to Harington St.

He said it took two-and-a-half years to get consent from the council for the development which would have up to six levels. Issues included height restrictions.

Nightclub owner Glen Meikle opted for a month-to-month lease for the The Empire and Route 67 because of uncertainties introduced by new liquor licensing laws in which the public could oppose the current 3am closures on which his businesses relied.

Business was good and it was only the uncertain environment which stopped him from signing a 10-year lease. There were many options to relocate the night clubs if Mr Cooney won consent. "We will secure our future somehow," Mr Meikle said.

In another major step forward for downtown, the council will next week appoint a preferred developer for an internationally-branded hotel on land it owns opposite Baycourt.

Council property manager Anthony Averill said they had shortlisted two applicants. The preferred developer would carry out due diligence looking at the economics of the hotel.

If everything panned out, a sale and purchase agreement would come back to the council.

Mr Cooney also had a finger in the pie for the hotel development. He and Rotorua-based hotel developer Ray Cook were one of the groups on the shortlist.

Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby said the new and planned downtown developments were critical to the survival of the CBD and he was "absolutely delighted" businesses were prepared to invest significant sums of money to make it happen.

Mr Crosby said another major planned downtown project, in which funding was being sought from TECT and the regional council's infrastructure fund, was the $30 million university campus in Durham St.

The new police station was about six months away from opening in Monmouth St while the owner of the old Tauranga Electric Power Board building on the corner of Durham and Spring streets had lodged redevelopment plans with the council for a multi-storeyed development on the 2200sq m site.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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