It was once thought to be Ellerslie's greatest eyesore, and its urban blight was even featured in the opening scene of the hard-hitting film Once Were Warriors.
But the area near the pedestrian overbridge linking the business precinct of the Ellerslie town centre to the business parks west of the Southern Motorway has recorded a big increase in pedestrian numbers to the increasingly popular shopping centre.
Christine Foley, the town centre manager, says pedestrian numbers have almost doubled in Ellerslie in just a year.
The biggest increase in visitors to the shopping centre was recorded at 165 per cent near the overbridge.
In 2006 the area was transformed by three public courtyards at "memory corner" and a "bridge of memories" mosaic storyboard.
Ms Foley said that since the previous pedestrian count in March last year, the number in the town centre had increased by 91 per cent.
"This year's pedestrian count shows very positive signs that Ellerslie town centre continues to develop and prosper."
Ms Foley said the encouraging results showed how careful planning could retain the life in a suburban shopping strip even in competition with the growth of big malls and internet shopping.
Ellerslie's strong growth was an encouraging return on its investment in strategic marketing and urban design since 1996, she said.
"At that time the township was run down with empty shops, graffiti and a business association in recess. When a new business association was formed, it immediately set about to revitalise the town centre."
Ms Foley said marketing and urban design plans established in the past eight years had led to a rapid transformation of both the physical and economic environment of the centre.
"It is now an appealing, thriving township. Progress has been tracked through regular market research, business surveys and annual pedestrian counts."
Ms Foley said the counts had been carried out at major entry points beside carparks and walkways both in the morning, to cover local shoppers, and early afternoon, to cover customers visiting over the lunchtime period.
The results of the research had shown strong growth in the number of pedestrians at all positions and during both count times.
Over the years the popularity of the Ellerslie cafes has contributed to steady growth in the lunchtime trade, which was now the lifeblood of many of the 100 small businesses.
Ms Foley said 118 per cent more pedestrians were counted in the 1.00-1.30pm period this year. Strong growth in employment in the business parks adjacent to the Southern Motorway was also a major influence.
Over recent years annual employment growth in the area was 12 per cent, compared with close to 3 per cent within the wider Auckland City area.
"Increasing numbers of these workers enjoy coming to the town centre at lunch time."
Research indicated the big malls, particularly Sylvia Park, had not taken significant business from the town centre, said Ms Foley.
"And while internet shopping is a worldwide trend, a friendly village feel, small destination stores, personal service and the whole sensory experience of cafes and shopping will never lose their appeal."