Three factors have been blamed for controversial accusations that Tauranga's downtown was a disgrace, with commercial property experts confident a recovery is around the corner.
Simon Clark, the Tauranga managing director of commercial real estate company Colliers International, said the biggest thing the council did wrong was the rezoning which allowed the development of satellite shopping centres.
"However, I would not call the CBD a disgrace," he said in response to comments by Civic Amenities Group chairman Paul Adams.
Mr Clark and the Bay of Plenty president of the New Zealand Property Council, Andrew Collins, were approached after Mr Adams lashed out at the council for the state of the CBD, saying successive councils had been "too timid to make the hard calls".
Mr Clark said what was happening in Tauranga was indicative of what was happening in similar-sized cities such as Hamilton, New Plymouth and Palmerston North where people expected better shopping layouts and parking than offered by traditional shopping strips.
He said the council had been at fault for rezoning too much land as commercial over the past 10 to 15 years, saying satellite shopping centres such as Fraser Cove had pulled a lot of people out of the CBD. Further pressure on the CBD would come from the development of the shopping centre at Tauriko and the major upgrade of Bethlehem Town Centre to accommodate Kmart.
The third big reason for the CBD's downturn had been the impact of the Christchurch earthquake, with tenants' wanting strengthened buildings. It sparked the construction of large new office buildings down Cameron Rd, with major banks and legal firms leaving the CBD. The latest office building under construction on Cameron Rd would accommodate Inland Revenue.
"No one could have foreseen the earthquake thing," he said.
The issue was complicated by the CBD not having enough larger sites for big new buildings. Mr Clark was confident the CBD would come back, starting with the nearly-completed Trustpower head office.
The council wants to revitalise the city centre as well.
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Mr Collins, the planning manager for Harrison Grierson, said it was true the CBD lacked vibrancy but he did not think it was because the council had been sitting on its hands. He was confident it would look significantly different in three years' time, when the tertiary campus was under way.
He was excited by the options under investigation for a new civic centre and he defended the council's "quite prudent" spending on infrastructure needed to grow the city.
With the council's coffers getting fuller from development contributions, now was the time to be doing something, he said.
Mr Collins supported the Civic Amenities Group for trying to breathe new life into the city centre, but said it was not a "them-and-us" situation.
"The council wants to revitalise the city centre as well."
The Property Council supported the $8 million the council had budgeted to spend on the waterfront and downtown street upgrades. "Quite a lot is happening but it may not be visible to everyone."
Mr Collins said the council was looking at ways to collaborate with the private sector so that the private sector did a lot of the investing. "No one was talking about putting costs on ratepayers in any significant way."
The alignment between the council and investors, together with the buoyant economy, would see larger operators move into the CBD and amalgamate small holdings into sites suitable for large-scale developments, he said.