John is a senior reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

High-powered criticism for Tauranga CBD revamp

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Tauranga architectural designer Phil Green has spoken out about last Thursday's meeting between the council and city architects and designers.
Tauranga architectural designer Phil Green has spoken out about last Thursday's meeting between the council and city architects and designers.

High-powered feedback from Tauranga business leaders and designers on the controversial civic heart project could force the council to extend the period for public consultation by a fortnight.

Mayor Stuart Crosby said it was more than likely that a decision would be made next week on whether to extend the submissions past the current cut-off date of July 18.

He was responding to growing concern with the project that proposed spending $68 million on a new council administration building and civic plaza.

Tauranga architectural designer Phil Green spoke out about last Thursday's meeting between the council and a group of city architects and designers.

Speaking on behalf of the group, Mr Green, said the council got halfway through its "spiel" when one of the architects said there was no point going on because it looked like a done deal.

"All they were doing was going through the motions," he said.

Mr Green said shading and wind funnel issues were raised by designers, along with concerns that there was nothing about how the city centre would be invigorated.

"An office building will not make it interesting. We need to find ways of bringing people into the city centre."

He did not think the concepts were inspiring or futuristic and there was a feeling the council should have got the design group and developers together earlier to look at a brief for the project.

"We live in the city and we know what will work here ... we are very skeptical of the approach taken by council management and staff."

Mr Green said he disagreed with the piecemeal approach taken by the council instead of seeing how the civic heart fitted into an umbrella view of the whole downtown.

"We don't accept the plan as it is now."

A recent city business leaders' breakfast was described as being generally positive but with some wide-ranging concerns emerging.

Peter McKinlay, a public policy analyst, said the primary concern was not cost but how the new office building would reshape the city centre.

A number of people expressed concerns that the council had not consulted on what they really wanted to talk about.
Peter McKinlay

The big picture was important and a number of people thought that was missing, he said.

"A number of people expressed concerns that the council had not consulted on what they really wanted to talk about."

Another person, who asked not to be named, said the council was in an unenviable position.

There was a call for more urgency to make sure that amenities important to create a civic heart were brought to life as quickly as possible.

Chief executive of the Tauranga Chamber of Commerce, Stan Gregec, said people were positive about the project but there was feeling that a wider discussion was needed around ways to rejuvenate the city.

"We need to look at what is the bigger vision and how do we approach all the things to have the kind of down town that we want to have, to be livable and attractive to people."

Project steering group chairwoman Councillor Gail McIntosh said the council had cut the project into manageable bite-sized chunks, starting with staff accommodation and looking further out at other things like a museum and performance centre.

The proposal out for public consultation included spending $400,000 on feasibility studies for a new library, museum and performance centre along with $2.5 million to convert Masonic Park into a new city square.

Cr McIntosh said they were doing the administration building first because that was the major problem since most staff were moved out after the discovery of toxic mould in leaky work places.

They were also getting a steer on other things such as the performance centre because they were more publicly debatable.

"We are consulting in bite-sized chunks that people can understand and what we can afford."

Civic heart community discussion events:

* Today: Red Square 12.15pm to 2pm

* Tomorrow: Papamoa Plaza 9am to 4pm

* Thursday: Fraser Cove near The Warehouse 10am to 2pm

* Friday: Red Square 10.30am to 1pm

* Next Tuesday: Bethlehem Town Centre 10.30am to 2pm

- Bay of Plenty Times

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