Building new visitor attractions and reversing the drop-off in people living in Tauranga's city centre have been identified as crucial measures needed to improve the vibrancy of the downtown.
This has been revealed in a report that used business trends and interviews to arrive at conclusions for the area from 4th Ave to The Elms.
Many saw the new university campus in Durham St as the catalyst for rejuvenation, but warned there would be a ''slow and difficult transition for the next five years due to the number of major developments under way''.
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The report, an updated 2014 study, did not include an analysis of parking. Downtown stakeholders said transport issues stopped easy access, and if people could not get into the CBD, then it would not function well.
Despite this, the report concluded that the CBD's economic vibrancy was improving, with a 9.5 per cent growth each year in jobs in the professional, scientific and technology services sector - an additional 733 jobs.
''Tauranga's success in this area is commendable,'' report author Phillipa Bowron from Martin Jenkins Associates said.
Overall job growth in the CBD was 5.2 per cent a year, with retail the weakest performer at 2.2 per cent growth a year.
There was a strong view among developers and investors that not enough progress was being made to increase visitor numbers.
''Focus should be put on ways to increase CBD attractions so that visitors are not automatically drawn to Mount Maunganui (or Rotorua) in the first instance,'' the report said.
Increased investment was needed for the CBD to become a ''compelling destination''.
The report said a ''momentum shift'' was occurring, with the city centre on the cusp of significant change that included the campus development, Heart of the City projects and the development of more high-rise residential.
These projects would help combat the CBD's static residential population since 2014. The permanent population dropped by 40 people compared with city-wide growth of nearly 10,000 people.
''There should be a concerted effort to encourage and support increased residential stock in the CBD as this will enhance its vibrancy and support more central city retail.''
It saw opportunities to create a ''dynamic climate'' by promoting entrepreneurs and leveraging off the university.
The report noted how the council was in the process of incorporating Maori values and cultural elements through its design and planning for the CBD, saying it would help give the CBD a unique identity.
Gross domestic product generated by retailing in the CBD grew by $15m to reach $80m in 2017. Motor vehicles grew by nearly 11 per cent a year, followed by specialised food retailing of 7.7 per cent and store and non-store retailing of 6 per cent a year.
Jobs in Tauranga's CBD (comparing 2017 with 2014)
Commercial sector: 59 per cent of jobs (up 1 per cent)
Retail sector: 11 per cent (down 1 per cent)
Food and beverage sector: 7 per cent (unchanged)
All other sectors: 23 per cent (unchanged)
Source: Martin Jenkins Associates
Souvenir and gift shop owner Bill Campbell says the challenge for CBD retailers was to survive the downturn caused by street closures rather than pin their hopes on the unlikely possibility of a big new visitor attraction.
With Durham St, Hamilton St and Harington St impacted by developments, and the Farmers site preparing for a significant retail and apartment complex, he predicted that some retailers would go to the wall.
''Some will and some won't survive,'' Campbell said.
Latest footpath counts backed up his figures that trading was the quietest for 10 years.
''It has to be something to do with the road closures.''
Campbell said he would love to see new visitor attractions that lured thousands of more people into the downtown.
''People have been trying to think of something for years and years.''
Priority One CEO Nigel Tutt said feasibility studies were being carried out on several visitor attraction proposals for the city centre, but details were confidential.
''A museum would have been good for that, but other attractions will pop up over time,'' he said.
Looking at the influx of skilled people in the professional and technology sectors into the CBD, he said they were seeing a lot of businesses wanting to become part of the economy in Tauranga.
City Transformation Committee chairman Councillor Larry Baldock chaired the recent workshop that looked at the economic vibrancy update.
He said the report showed the CBD in a positive light, with signs it was coming alive.
Real growth was being produced in the city centre, some of it ahead of comparative city centres in Hamilton, New Plymouth, Dunedin and Queenstown, he said.