I have followed the saga of the downtown redevelopment project with keen interest over the past few months.

Last week, someone articulated what I have felt about Tauranga since arriving here last November and yet have struggled on many occasions to put into words.

Delivering a submission before the council on the civic heart project, Duncan Catanach, who moved to Tauranga two years ago, likened the city to a teenager.

"It has grown physically more than it has grown up emotionally ... the city needs to make a choice on what it wants to be when it grows up," he said.


Indeed, it feels as though Tauranga is a town that has had bits tacked on to it as the population has grown.

Don't get me wrong, I love living here. But I made the decision to move to this place for its outdoor elements, choosing to mollify any hunger for big city living with the occasional weekend trip elsewhere.

But with this project, council has a chance to transform downtown into the vibrant, cultural hub that so many in this city are yearning for.

To avoid becoming one large retirement village, we need to give twentysomethings a reason to live here besides the beautiful beaches.

It's a highly subjective topic and everyone has their opinions, but thinking about the appealing elements of other cities that I love - London, Melbourne, Wellington - there's no doubt The Strand would benefit from being pedestrianised.

How nice it would be to stroll through it on a summer's day, with the cafes and bars sprawling onto the pavement.

I think the waterfront is being completely wasted.

In my view, whoever had the idea to put a car park there needs to be booted out of town immediately, if they haven't been already.

And don't even get me started on the public transport system.

Anyway, I'm no business expert, but I imagine that realising the downtown area's potential will not come cheap, and so each council is probably reluctant to spend the money for fear of racking up a large, unpopular debt.

It will take a long-term vision and bold action, but Tauranga's city centre now has a real opportunity to develop, and it would be such a shame to see it wasted.