In 1985, eminent New Zealand author Michael King wrote how Friday-night Whangarei "roused itself uncharacteristically".

"Shops are open until 9pm and thousands of people come into town to buy things, to eat in restaurants or outdoor takeaway bars, to drink, or simply wander in the streets among the crowd," King wrote in Death of a Rainbow Warrior.

Jump to today and the late author would not recognise the city on a Friday night. But that's about to change, with a campaign under way to reverse the ghost town feel that descends on the city come 6pm Friday.

From next Friday the CBD's new Cameron St laneway will feature live entertainment in the hope of drawing people back in and encouraging CBD workers to stick around for an after-work beer.

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"There will be dancers, there will be an awesome young new talent and there will be a fabulous top local band. There will be people. It will be every Friday night this summer," said event organiser Stephanie Mitchell.

"If there were enough people 30 years ago to make Whangarei hum, then there's no good excuses for us today."

Mayor Sheryl Mai will launch the event series from 4.30pm, with the first night featuring Whangarei Academy of Dance, singer Ness Henderson and band Catch 42. Spot prizes would include restaurant vouchers, movie tickets and shoe vouchers.

"I'm really excited about the way the community is coming on board to provide some amazing entertainment," Ms Mai said.

"Also the way the spaces we've provided are being used by the community, for the community."

Mayor Mai said there were limits to what a single organisation could do to reinvigorate the CBD, so it was good to see community ownership of the area.

Ms Mitchell said she wanted the events to centre around the idea of a "city of artists" and would grow to incorporate pop-up open air art galleries, buskers and other performance.

The Friday night market feel would also see retailers open later .

Whangarei District Council spent $2.7 million doing up parts of Cameron and John St into a pedestrian-friendly "shared space", and a large transparent canopy which will be installed in March. Drivers could park for free for two hours on the top level of the Central City Carpark, corner John and Robert streets.

Businesses interesting in supporting the event series can contact stephaniem@rosemanandwarren.co.nz.