Push to revitalise Tauranga CBD

By Natalie Dixon

BRAINSTORMING: Tuskany Tauranga Mainstreet champions Sally Cooke and Roanna Kelly in Mid City Mall where there are a number of vacant shops.PHOTO/JOHN BORREN
BRAINSTORMING: Tuskany Tauranga Mainstreet champions Sally Cooke and Roanna Kelly in Mid City Mall where there are a number of vacant shops.PHOTO/JOHN BORREN

Free parking and more events are being considered as part of a major campaign to revitalise Tauranga's CBD.

City business leaders met this week to brainstorm how to attract more people to the central city and add more vitality to the area.

Mayor Stuart Crosby told the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend more than 100 ideas were brainstormed at the Tuskany Tauranga Mainstreet meeting.

He supported the free-parking idea and was promising to put the suggestion back on council's agenda.

But he also said retailers and vacant shop owners had to play their part.

The number of empty shops was a serious issue and the council knew the new commercial development zones in Papamoa, Bethlehem and Tauriko would impact on the central city.

"I know retailers are hurting but we have just come out the deepest, largest recession in modern history and we are experiencing a slow recovery."

The council had been working on a city centre strategy aimed at reinvigorating the central city but "it takes time".

Mr Crosby said the council had changed development planning rules and he expected to have further talks with building owners about how the council could help speed up earthquake-strengthening work.

City chief executive Garry Poole had also been asked to investigate whether resource consent costs could be reduced and the process sped up.

Tuskany Mainstreet spokeswoman Sally Cooke said the meeting was used to discuss challenges and opportunities within the central city.

Ideas included enhancements to cruise ship shuttle buses, having more events in the central city including mid-week events and making people more aware of events.

The enhancement to the cruise ship shuttle buses meant deciding if the buses needed to run more frequently, if more buses were needed and what else needed to be done to entice cruise ship passengers into the central city.

"It's all about injecting energy and vitality in the city centre and we all need to work together to achieve that."

Another idea that was discussed was free parking but Ms Cooke said it would not be the city's "golden saviour".

"You can't keep doing what you have always done and expect a different result."

But Fancy That Gift and Souvenir Shop owner Bill Campbell said the lack of parking parity with other shopping centres was turning shoppers away.

He called for the council to allow the first three hours of parking to be free so city retailers could compete.

La Mexica owner Matt Hayward agreed better parking options and more events were the two areas that would help bring more life into the city.

"The council and the businesses just need to remove barriers for people to get there and have a good time," he said.

Hammon Diamond Jewellers owner Julie Hammon said the work already being done to bring more events into the city was on the right track.

It was not as much about enticing shoppers into shops as creating a vibrant and busy city centre that people enjoyed being in, she said.

Mr Crosby said he agreed there needed to be parking parity with the Mount.

Building owners could also improve the look of their vacant shopfronts, and retailers could stay open longer. The fact many were not open on Sundays was a major concern, he said.

There are 419 lease vacancies among the 3090 available, including 97 shops for lease.

Colliers International Tauranga chief executive Simon Clark said there wasat least 25 vacant central city shops,as major office tenants joined retailers moving to Cameron Rd's "new office hub".

- Bay of Plenty Times

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