The Cinderella of the Town Basin has received a makeover to the tune of $260,000 as a new tenant is ready to partner up with Whangarei District Council.
The local authority has spent $150,000 on changes to the building's structure to make it more attractive and a further $110,000 on compliance and maintenance work.
Having been untenanted since Tahuna Reef Bar and Restaurant closed three years ago, the building failed to find a suitor due to its lack of interior accessibility and the awkward shape of the building.
The lack of table room due to the mezzanine floor and the location of the bar had also turned prospective tenants off.
WDC property manager Mike Hibbert said the council was thrilled with the prospect of the building bringing life and vibrancy to the area.
"We are making good progress towards seeing a business in there in [the] spring," he said.
The Advocate understands the owners of another restaurant in Whangarei were involved in opening a seafood restaurant on-site.
Mr Hibbert said the new tenancy would "add to the great eateries, shops and galleries already there, and build on the increased foot traffic since the walkway has been completed".
"We had a tenant in there who went out of business, so there was a bit of a delay getting moving again while all the technical issues around the liquidation were sorted out."
Tahuna Reef Bar and Restaurant went into liquidation in July 2012.
The former business was owned by Whangarei's Adelaide Meaker, who took over in 2008, after it had been the Gybe Restaurant.
"Both the liquidators and council had limited success with public calls for interest in the site," Mr Hibbert said.
The lack of a full second floor had been a worry for prospective tenants, such as Lone Star Bar & Restaurant, which told the Advocate in 2012 it had been looking at the building but wanted more floor space.
To ensure the building was more attractive to a range of tenants, the landlords relocated the bar, fixed up plumbing, electrical works and added floor covering, installed an elevator and filled in the new first floor.
This work all cost $150,000.
"At the same time, it was clear that we needed to do quite a bit of maintenance to ensure the building met all safety requirements, was in a good state and would be a worthwhile investment for a new lessee," said Mr Hibbert.
A budget of $110,000 allowed for paint work for the turret, fire rating compliance, replaced shingles and replaced rotting stairs.
That amount came out of the WDC operating costs as building owners.
"We now have a building that is freshly re-furbished and 100 per cent compliant, which means we have a good asset which makes it a more attractive prospect for future tenants, a lessee who will start up in business in spring and we will recoup the cost of the investment through the lease," he said.