A vital step has been taken in the project to transform Wharf St into a pedestrian-friendly ''eat street'' by Christmas next year.

Tauranga City Council's city transformation committee unanimously agreed to spend $190,000 preparing a detailed design for Wharf St.

It paves the way towards a decision to close off the bottom block of Wharf St to traffic and spend $2.9 million making it a cafe and restaurant precinct.

The owner of 15 Wharf St, Greg Robison, said he was delighted with the decision.

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He earlier told the committee that the downtown had struggled to reinvent itself and that Wharf St was the sorriest of the sorry.

Robison cited the success of Rotorua's Eat Streat, saying: ''We need to be sharper and show that we believe in ourselves. If we don't, people won't come and invest in the downtown.''

Wharf St to Eat St. Property owner Greg Robison is happy with the council decision to transform the rather drab and tired streetscape. Photo/George Novak
Wharf St to Eat St. Property owner Greg Robison is happy with the council decision to transform the rather drab and tired streetscape. Photo/George Novak

Councillor Steve Morris said the detractors of Eat Streat in Rotorua were other retailers who felt they were subsidising competitors. He asked Robison whether the Wharf St retailers who benefited would contribute.

Robison said he had so far spent $600,000 upgrading his building and that retailers would be paying the council for licences to occupy roadway.

The committee heard how the licences to occupy for Rotorua's Eat Streat brought in $100,000 a year. However, Morris said the licences to occupy would need to recoup a reasonable chunk of the $1.5m above-ground costs for Wharf St.

''Wharf St will no longer be the butt of jokes if this goes through,'' Morris said referring to the current look of the street.

Crown and Badger owner Jessica Rafferty said it was about making Wharf St memorable and getting away from the tired and cluttered look.

''The owners all get it. I could not imagine a more proactive group of people.''

They were planning to run festivals including St Patrick's Day, America's Independence Day, Oktoberfest, and Queen's Birthday; and celebrating special sporting events such as the America's Cup and Rugby World Cup.

''People love a reason to celebrate.''

Rafferty said visitors to Tauranga would always remember the little street that was full of lights and trees.

''Wharf St will give them a really big reason to come to Tauranga.''

Committee chairman Larry Baldock said the overwhelming feedback from public open days was that people wanted to finish the job and transform Wharf St from a caterpillar into a butterfly.

And the council's decision drew support from people who worked nearby to Wharf St.

Gaston Milsom said he loved the idea. "It gives a much better flow and makes this area much more useful. It will help to rejuvenate the whole downtown Tauranga area."

Jenna, who would only be known by her first name, said a revamped Eat St would make for a nice destination, especially if there was the ability to cover the street in the same way as Rotorua, enabling people to dine out in all weathers.

Main design outcomes for Wharf St
- Favours pedestrians, cycles and discourages through traffic.
- A green street with trees and rain gardens.
- Fixed public seating and shade.
- Space for small intimate events like live music.
- Promote more commercial offerings to enliven the street.