John is a senior reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

CBD revamp suggestions fly in

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Jenny Gawith tapped into her 52 years of living in the Western Bay to tell city councillors Bill Grainger (left) and Kelvin Clout what Tauranga's downtown needs. Photo/Andrew Warner
Jenny Gawith tapped into her 52 years of living in the Western Bay to tell city councillors Bill Grainger (left) and Kelvin Clout what Tauranga's downtown needs. Photo/Andrew Warner

Hundreds of Tauranga people have used the Civic Heart project to make it clear they want changes to the city's ailing downtown so that it was relevant to their lives.

The mid-point of a lengthy public consultation process has given politicians and staff a good steer on fundamental decisions facing the council over the redevelopment of the civic block.

Discovery of toxic mould and the emptying out of large parts of badly leaking buildings has presented the council with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rebuild in a way that injects civic pride back into the downtown.

Read more: There's still hope yet for ailing CBD

Yesterday's open day at Fraser Cove was typical of the 11 others that have taken place around the city, with deputy mayor Kelvin Clout saying a lot of people they spoke to talked about the need to make it a family-friendly place.

"If the kids are catered for, then Mum and Dad will be happy to be there."

Many suggestions were of a general nature and did not drill down to what should happen on the council-owned land

Old chestnuts like free parking to compete with the burgeoning suburban shopping centres were frequently mentioned, as were irregular shop opening hours at weekends.

"There were a lot of positives about what we are doing on the waterfront."

Read more: Tauranga CBD 'like an outdated village'

Councillor Clout said people want the civic centre to become a gathering place, with a mixture of buildings, open spaces and trees for shade and beauty. This would become a pivotal question for councillors when they sat down to make decisions based on options for the old buildings and what the public wanted to happen.

"Do we have a civic square or do we go to the waterfront."

Cr Clout said people did not seem too hung up on where council staff were housed, with a push for a big public open space that could comfortably take 2000 to 3000 people.

Councillor Bill Grainger said opinions varied from people liking the downtown the way it is, to others complaining it was tired and dead. "Hairy Maclary was mentioned many times, people love it."

Residents want an overhaul of Tauranga CBD. Photo / George Novak
Residents want an overhaul of Tauranga CBD. Photo / George Novak

He said the civic heart needed to be user-friendly and lively, with no dull concrete buildings.

A Western Bay resident for 52 years, Jenny Gawith wants the downtown to be more people-friendly. "A green area would be nice, with trees, flowers and shade."

She said the council was not making the most of the waterfront and she supported the removal of carparks and bringing the water closer to the people.

"I am absolutely in favour of a museum. It is crazy to have the collection in storage and costing so much money... Tauranga has a story to tell."

City development project leader Morgan Jones said Civic Heart would be a decision that affected everyone and they were trying to reach every ratepayer. Another 10 community open days were planned.

It would culminate in an amendment to the council's long-term plan, with options ranging from patching up old buildings to bringing in the wrecking ball, he said.

Mr Jones said a lot of the ideas from the public could be summed up by the need to make the CBD relevant and a place where people wanted to come.


Areas impacted by Civic Heart project

• Civil block counded by Durham, Willow, Wharf and Hamilton streets

• Western side of Durham St opposite Baycourt

• Carpark behind Harrington House

• Masonic park


Main themes from public consultation so far

• Arts and culture bring people into the city
• Inner-city living
• Shift bus stops
• Area needs a sense of history
• City square and green shady spaces
• Permanent or temporary
• Funkier shops
• A bigger performing arts centre
• Free parking/better parking
• Something for youth to do
• An iconic new building
• Street performers
• CBD lacks a focal point

- Bay of Plenty Times

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