An independent review has found Tauranga City Council didn't promise to turn the old Phoenix carpark into a "green space".
The council hired consultant Max Pedersen to review four controversial projects that did not live up to community expectations, including the Mount Maunganui carpark renamed Te Papa O Ngā Manu Porotakataka after a $2.5 million redevelopment.
Pedersen found project was always pitched as an "urban space" rather than a green space, from the first design in 2016.
"Sure, some artists' impressions of the job may have been flasher than others ... but it was always going to be substantially concrete with some green stuff scattered round to break up the effect of it," Pedersen told a council meeting on Tuesday.
Statements to the contrary were "not supported by the facts".
There was a lot of negative feeling about losing carparks before construction started.
The discovery in August 2017, after the project's first cost estimate, that it was up to 40 per cent over its $2 million budget promoted a scaling back of the "unrealistic" design that further damaged the community's perception.
Grass and planted areas were "consolidated", a water feature reduced and play items removed.
The budget issues and changes were not reported to the council until late 2018 when they were "a fait accompli".
The council approved an overspend of $490,000 in September.
The council has been "activating" the space, including adding beanbags and four trees, looking for a spot for the Mountie statue, and having it host events.
It was also taking steps to change aspects of its culture that lead to the management issues.
Mount Maunganui/Pāpāmoa ward councillor Leanne Brown said the design was a modern concept, ahead of its time, and was "a sensitive topic from the start".
Brown understood the space was always intended to be an urban space and not another park, however, acknowledged the council's website had used the phrase "urban green space".
"It was poor communication and a misunderstanding," she said. "In my view, it was never going to be a park. It was always going to be a Britomart look-a-like."
Mainstreet member Mandy Gillgren of Zeytins said the Mount was always changing and retailers would adapt.
Mount Mainstreet Farmers Market manager Peter Sandison said he had no complaints, despite initial concerns including about less parking.
"It has all turned out reasonably good," he said. "The public are coming back. We have had good foot traffic."
Mayor Greg Brownless said it was "hard for me to defend Te Papa O Ngā Manu Porotakataka because I didn't want it."
In general, however, the council would not "hide" from the findings of the report and wanted to face up to issues and sort them out.
He saw no point, now that it was done, in continuing to "throw money" at it and for example, turn it back into a carpark.
The Mount Maunganui Ratepayers, Residents and Retailers group's Dawn Kiddie said she recalled the park being referred to as a green space, and it looked like one in artist impressions.
"It was sold to the community as that. But the community still wanted their carpark."
Three concept designs for the urban space that replaced part of the old Phoenix carpark in Mount Maunganui.