A surge in For Lease signs littering the inner city shop windows is giving city advocates room for blue-sky thinking.
If the central business district could be wiped clean, what is it that would replace the old with the new?
Downtown Tauranga has named six brands that have closed - or will soon close - their CBD stores since the move to level 1 and chairman Brian Berry told a Tauranga City Council meeting on July 2 the city centre was "in crisis".
Tauranga architectural designer Phil Green said people needed to forget about the railway line, which ran through the city along The Strand, and instead, focus on assets the CBD already had.
"We need to green the inner city into a proper park area, which includes removing the carpark from The Strand, putting that down in grass and maybe having an avenue of trees along the railway line, which softens that.
"Then linking across into Masonic Park, get rid of the car parks there, put in lawns and carry a big wide footpath diagonally across to the side of the art gallery."
Green said planting trees was not just aesthetically pleasing, or a cost-effective way to brighten the CBD, but was also practical because it delivered shade which the CBD was lacking.
He believed the bus terminal needed to be moved to Durham St immediately.
"Enlivening the city with parks is better off than all the grand plans which will happen over 50 to 80 years. But right now we just need human scale impetus into the downtown area."
Green believed anything above the first floor should be "boutique-type apartments".
He said that would be the drawcard for young and old to live in the city, which was what it needed.
"There are a lot of cities around the world who would love our waterfront.
"You go to any major city and they have this mix of retail, commercial, residential and the streets are alive with people. It's a buzz, and we need to get the buzz back."
The Farmers redevelopment, on the corner of Elizabeth St and Devonport Rd, will be host to the country's new flagship store as well as new residents.
Tauranga City Council is investing in the streetscape, in partnership with Farmers, and the proposed upgrade will be completed in time for the opening of the Farmers store, in 2021.
It is also in the middle of Wharf St's upgrade which will create an attractive pedestrian environment and dining precinct.
Focus on Property are owners of about $70 million of CBD property and director David Baker believed retail in the CBD would not come back until there were more offices and residential sites in the CBD.
"We should look to have tighter planning restrictions on Cameron Rd offices.
"Maybe its 200sq m or more has to be in the CBD and 200sq m or less are only allowed on Cameron Rd."
Baker said he would love to see the big banks move back to the CBD when they had outgrown their current offices, as typically they would entertain clients and spend money elsewhere.
Baker believed critical mass was crucial to making public transport in Tauranga work.
"While we have so many people spread out on the spine of Cameron Rd, it is hard to have a centralised bus station that's going to have enough through-foot because we don't have the intensity right in the focus zone to make that work."
From the landlord's point of view, Baker said landlords needed to be adaptable and proactive to make their spaces desirable.
"The old retail tenancy is really deep. But we are looking to demolish the extension created in the 80s [on one of the company properties] and go back to the original footprint and put car parking at the back.
"Retail is changing. It doesn't need the depth and the size it used to. I think landlords should look at what can be demolished or turned into car parking to make their tenancies more attractive to office users."
Baker also said he would like to see Selwyn St be home to more high-end residential spaces.
The best way to revitalise a CBD was to have people living in it, Waikato University senior deputy vice-chancellor, Professor Alister Jones said.
"It's getting the mix right. You need to create a living-working environment around education, research and business.
"That then revitalises shops and people reduce commuting time."
He said start-ups and an innovation environment would work well in Tauranga, as the alternative was being spread out due to the isthmus the city centres around.
He also believed universities played key roles in revitalising city centres.
Tauranga City councillor Kelvin Clout said in his view it was almost pointless to artificially prop up retail in the CBD, "as any measures are likely to be temporary and not sustainable in the long term".
"The CBD should be renowned as the commercial, cultural and civic hub of Tauranga. It will also be an attractive place to live in time."
Having said that, Clout did believe there was likely to be longstanding retail success given other factors including, ideally up to 1000 new residents living in the CBD.
Other initiatives included free parking for two hours, followed by a significant charge for the third hour and beyond, plus, a sufficient stock of off-street parking and increased amenity and attractions on the waterfront, including the removal of the northern carpark.
"Why should inanimate cars get the best view of our harbour?" Clout said.
More cultural facilities such as a museum or cultural centre, performance venue, or conference centre and boutique retail offerings which were not available in malls accompanying craft eateries and bars were more of what Clout wanted to see.
Pedestrianisation of Devonport Rd, from Elizabeth St to The Strand, as well as The Strand itself, is what would help revitalise the central city, Clout said.
Like Green, Clout thought it was best to ignore the railway line.
"I believe it is prohibitively expensive to move the railway line so we need to somehow turn it into a positive. More creative persons than I should be able to conceive appropriate innovations."
Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Matt Cowley said a big conversation was required about the future of Tauranga's city centre.
"There will be a need for quality high-density residential to support the professional services workers."
Cowley said the city centre would remain the hub for professional services as they liked to cluster close to each other.
"The city centre will also be a natural events hub with the Tauranga domain and the growing population density of its surrounding suburbs.
"Convenient transport options will be critical to access the relatively skinny peninsula in the middle of the Tauranga Harbour."
Cowley said councils recently adopted UFTI (Urban Form and Transport Initiative) meaning the city would be a polycentric city with many flourishing centres.
The plan sets the direction for how and where the sub-region should grow over the next 50 years, and what transport connections it will need.
"The future role of the city centre will be a critical discussion," Cowley said.