A project to beautify Whangarei CBD will receive its piece de resistance in the next two weeks, in the form of a 13m-high transparent plastic canopy.
The canopy installation will bring to a close more than 9 months of improvements to the Cameron St strip mall. Originally projected to cost $2.7 million, the entire laneway - including the canopy - now looks set to cost Whangarei District Council close to $3 million due to higher-than-expected "beautification" costs.
Over the past week, 12 black steel nikau palm-like poles, forming the imposing 27-tonne structure set to hold aloft a 20m x 30m ethylene tetrafluoroethylene canopy, have been installed.
Starting April 4, the canopy would be installed over four nights, though this was weather dependent, said WDC project engineer Rachael Mannion.
"Anything over 15 knots and we pretty much have to put it off."
The canopy will weather-proof a large portion of the new Cameron St-James St shared space, which is part of an attempt by the council to revitalise Whangarei CBD.
Mayor Sheryl Mai said the laneway was council's way of providing the attractive canvas for the community, and applauded a project by nearby business people to supply live entertainment on the new outdoor stage. The businesses have organised Friday evening entertainment to keep people in the CBD later.
Meanwhile, the council has given up trying to get people to parallel park in the laneway and has initiated a blanket parking ban in the interests of pedestrian safety.
The council had contacted the 40 businesses seeking endorsement to remove the four remaining spaces. Twelve responded, with 10 giving the go-ahead. The ban would not be enacted until new markings and signage was in place.