Tauranga businessman Richard Knight has ambitious plans to develop a new destination market in Papamoa.
Mr Knight last month took over the lease of the Palms Market based on 1.5ha of privately owned land on Domain Rd, which he would be renaming Box Park Markets on Domain.
Mr Knight, whose background included property development, had initially leased space in the market for his furniture importing business, but moved to take over the lease after the previous owner Willem Kranenburg's company Kranenburg was put into liquidation in March.
Tenants said under the previous leaseholder's control, the site had failed to reach its full potential. The new concept for the market would be a cluster of renovated containers clustered around the centrepiece existing licensed cafe and nursery gardens.
"I'm turning it into a destination - the first container market spot in the Bay of Plenty," said Mr Knight, adding that the concept was similar to markets that had been set up in Christchurch after the earthquake.
"My aim is to bring people here so they've got a one-stop shop where they can have a nice lunch and coffee or wine, and look at the shops. It's already taking off."
Mr Knight's company, Mandalay Projects, has 12 spaces sub-leased out to small enterprises, including the cafe and nursery, a hairdresser, a quilting enterprise and a book exchange, and has space for 18 to 20 more containers.
He said he was negotiating with an additional four new potential tenants.
Mr Knight bought new containers as tenants came on board, designed them, and worked with Tauranga company Spacewise to do the construction.
The land on the site was privately owned by a New Zealand businessman who lived in England and preferred to keep his identity confidential. Mr Knight said he owned what was on top of the site.
Raewyn Cornford, who has run the Palms Garden Centre since the middle of last year, said when she had moved in the site had been very run down. "It was very hard to attract new tenants. Richie Knight taking over has been absolutely an improvement.
"This is a potential gold mine and it will be very good for the Bay of Plenty."
Mr Knight was now supplying the garden centre and his moves have included adding about 6000 trees and plants to upgrade the nursery.
"When you come to a cafe/nursery in a market operation, they need to be very good," said Mr Knight. "They are the two major heartbeats of this project."
The former Palms Cafe would be renamed Cafe on Domain and run by head chef/manager Angela Boland, who had a similar role under the previous lease holder, and is now taking on more responsibility.
"The approach now is a lot better, we've got new staff coming on and have just hired another chef," she said.
"We've been really busy and it's getting busier, which is good."
Idea furnished from business trip to Bali
Mandalay Projects managing director Richard Knight wound up controlling the Domain Rd market because he took out a lease on the site to sell a unique range of imported furniture.
As well as importing marble furniture from Italy, Mr Knight's Mandalay Projects Ltd has found an unusual niche in making furniture recycled from boats wrecked in the Japan tsunami.
He sourced wood in Japan salvaged from the tsunami debris, which he exported to Indonesia, where it was made into furniture and imported for sale in New Zealand. "My original concept was just to sell the furniture out of a container shop at the market," said Mr Knight.
However, while he was in Bali, Indonesia, on a business trip, he learned that the previous leaseholder had become insolvent.
So he flew back and decided to take over the lease for the full site.
"It was a big relief when Richie took over," said Raewyn Cornford, who subleases the garden and nursery centre.
"We were all very worried about the future of our businesses here."