Abandoning a transport hub without an alternative plan for car parks could have a major impact on the Tauranga CBD, business leaders fear.
It would have cost Tauranga City Council at least $55 million to finish the now-abandoned Harington Street Transport Hub - and potentially $7m to demolish what's already been built. The council revealed the project had major structural and foundation issues.
The decision to abandon the build was made in a public-excluded council meeting earlier this month. The hub was expected to have 250 parking spaces for cyclists, 53 for motorbikes, 535 car parks, 15 mobility parks, electric charge points for cars and e-bikes, and showers and lockers.
Ray White Commercial managing director Philip Hunt said he already feared for the CBD and those fears had been compounded by the dumping of the transport hub.
"We are getting calls virtually every day from offices wanting to relocate because of the lack of parking.
"Without those first floor offices, I really fear for retail, there will be fewer people on the street, people won't be shopping in their lunchtime."
Hunt said the state of parking in the CBD was the worst he had ever seen.
"Businesses are really struggling for car parks for their staff.
"The past two or three years have been extremely hard.
"The CBD is dreadfully dull."
Downtown Tauranga chairman Brian Berry said the loss of those potential car parks was "obviously a real disappointment".
"It continues to place the accessibility of the CBD under pressure."
Berry said the CBD had a perception problem which was partly due to parking issues.
"There is no immediate answer to the parking issue. Public transport options haven't worked to date because they are unreliable and there is still a social stigma around people using a bus service which isn't there in larger cities.
"The public perception out there is to stay away because of accessibility and the shop vacancies. People think it's not worth going there and that's a really hard thing to overcome.
"The foot traffic in the CBD has dropped significantly and when Covid hit many businesses were forced to reassess their position."
Berry said the CBD had already lost some big retail names recently such as Michael Hill and Westpac and he believed more would follow.
"I think we will see further name brands leave the CBD and it is a concern but there is no quick fix. In two to five years the CBD will be a totally different place."
Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Matt Cowley said the dust was still settling post-Covid.
"Most businesses will be looking at their options as we settle into the new normal. Shared spaces are becoming a popular option. That way people can visit one office and get the services of a number of different businesses.
"There is one street out of the whole CBD that is really hurting and that's Devonport Rd. Access to car parks has been an issue. Grey St had a similar reputation."
Cowley said the transport hub was "absolutely needed" but what the city required was a balance between car parking and public transport.
Tauranga City Council general manager: infrastructure Nic Johansson said when the decision was made to proceed with the Transport Hub project, there was an expectation that the waterfront, Dive Cres and Cliff Rd car parking areas would no longer be available due to planned development.
"Those developments have not proceeded to date, so the need to replace them has also been delayed.
"Another uncertainty in the mix is the long-term effects of changes in work requirements flowing on from the pandemic lockdown and alert level restrictions, with more people working at home more often, and progressive changes in the way people travel."
Johansson said the CBD would never have space for every worker to drive a vehicle each and park in the city centre.
"We need to balance the needs of city workers who want somewhere to park their car for the whole day, with the needs of visitors and customers who need easy access to shops and businesses.
"The Covid lockdown experience is an opportunity to review the way we think about how we manage our daily commute."
"Since Covid-19 the leased parking demand has become more dynamic. Some businesses are wanting more space for their staff to park, while others are wanting to lease fewer spaces because they have staff working from home or flexi-hours."
Construction of the seven-storey transport hub, with two more levels below ground, began in June 2018 but seismic strengthening work stopped last May after the council was told of potential issues relating to the structure's seismic joints.
All construction work was suspended in September and an engineering review began.
At the beginning of March, the council confirmed that review found structural issues and foundation strengthening was also needed.
There are no plans yet to do anything with what has already been built.