Tauranga's downtown retailers have opposed the council spending $64 million on a new office building for staff.

They have joined mounting concern that an administration building would be at the expense of amenities with the capacity to create a more vibrant city centre, like a museum and performance centre.

Community frustration spilled over at yesterday's hearings on the council's civic heart proposals.

Council has prioritised spending $71million on the new administration building, open space and a new civic square, plus $400,000 on feasibility studies into a museum, performance centre and new library.


Tauranga Mainstreet chairman Glenn Tuck said a new civic building would not achieve a civic heart, even although he supported the need for new premises for staff.
His submission, read to the hearing by Sally Cooke, asked the council to reprioritise the amenities to ''achieve the civic heart we all strive for''.

He joined other city business interests in urging the council to consider applying different funding and ownership models to ensure the priority to get the best value for ratepayers.

''If this can be achieved with a reduced upfront investment cost from council, then this would allow for the amenities desperately needed in the city centre to be given the higher priority and status they deserved.''

Mr Tuck backed a new library building, saying libraries were no longer just book depositories but were a seamless blend of knowledge, technology and good design.
Amenities like a museum and performance centre would also provide the catalyst to improve the feasibility for a hotel development in the downtown, he said.

Retired development consultant Colin Jenkins said a museum should be sited next to the Art Gallery fronting Masonic Park. It was the logical location so that services and management could be shared with the gallery.

He said the cost of $68 million for the administration building and surrounds translated into an equivalent rent of $600 per square metre. This compared with $325 to $360 per square metre for high class commercial space in Tauranga.

He concluded that the cost for the new building was ''very high and out of kilter with reality''.

Mr Jenkins, who designed Mount Maunganui's Twin Towers and the downtown's Kingsview development, was also concerned with the location of the administration building, saying it would require a climb of 65 to 70 steps from Willow St level to reach the entrance.

If the current administration building was demolished, he believed that the more logical site would be to connect it to the existing customer services building and library. The total area of the existing buildings were 9439 sq m meaning the new building would only have to be 1269 sq m to achieve the same size as the proposed new administration building.

Mr Jenkins also challenged the council's fit-out figures of $3000 per sq m. A high-grade fit-out in Auckland was currently $550 to $900 a sq m.

His plan meant the northern half of the civic block would be retained for future uses.
He said many business people saw the proposed administration building as the council's monument to itself.
The hearings continue today and tomorrow.