A major office and retail development on Devonport Rd is set to create hundreds of jobs and has signalled renewed confidence in Tauranga's CBD.
Property development and investment company Willis Bond & Co plans to develop a six-storey, 4300sq m development at 82-98 Devonport Rd.
It plans to include above-ground office space and ground-floor retail, with pedestrian crossings connecting Devonport Rd and The Strand.
Craigs Investment Partners will likely be the anchor tenant for the building, which will include both commercial and retail spaces.
The site is currently the subject of a conditional sale and purchase agreement with the owner, Tauranga City Council.
Willis Bond & Co managing director Mark McGuinness said the venture solidified a long-standing relationship with Craigs Investment Partners.
"We've worked with Craigs for over 30 years, so it is fitting that we're able to work on this project together, and support Tauranga City Council's efforts to revitalise the Tauranga city centre," he said.
McGuinness said he was "very positive" about the potential of Tauranga's CBD and the scale of the development will create "hundreds of jobs".
"There are already clusters of significant investment such as the Farmers redevelopment and the university's developments.
"This proposal will add to that and help create critical mass which will underpin other developments."
Willis Bond & Co was behind a number of award-winning developments in Auckland and Wellington but McGuinness said the Tauranga site would be a "landmark project" for the company.
Craig Investment Partners chairman Neil Craig said the company had outgrown its existing premises.
"The Devonport Road development will cater for our 230 current staff and provide the space we need to grow," he said.
"We've been looking for a suitable waterfront site for some years now. This site meets all of our requirements and clearly signals Craig's intention to keep its head office in Tauranga for the long-term."
Priority One chief executive Nigel Tutt told the Bay of Plenty Times the project was a great development for Tauranga's CBD and the city in general.
''It's in a prominent location and will be a beacon for others in the city. It's great to see Tauranga City Council leading the way in city development.''
Tutt said it was also very heartening to see Craigs Investment Partners committed to the city centre as they are ''a great local company''.
Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Matt Cowley said it was great news for the CBD and ratepayers that the council has made this sale to a high-quality development.
"It shows that the private sector sees a strong future for Tauranga's CBD. It is also great that Craig's Investment Partners have chosen to stay in the CBD."
Cowley said Tauranga's long-term population growth trends show the city required more inner-city living options.
"For the CBD to be sustainable long-term, it needs to be a 24/7 destination, and not just be lively during work days. This new development will complement the new Farmers building nicely."
Mainstreet Tauranga spokeswoman Sally Cooke said it was very welcome news for Downtown Tauranga.
"This will be another significant contributor to the revitalisation of our city centre. As the civic, commercial, cultural and retail hub of the region this new development, alongside the Farmers Development and the University of Waikato city-centre campus, are all strong signals in the confidence stakeholders have in our developing city centre."
Tauranga mayor Tenby Powell said the decision to sell council-owned properties at 82, 84, 90, 94, 96 and 98 Devonport Rd to facilitate the development comes as part of a wider initiative to re-consolidate council's office-based services in a single location and revise the master plan for the future use of the Willow Street Civic Precinct.
"The master plan process has not progressed at all for close to two years and we need to clarify what our aspirations are for the Willow St site and engage with hapu so that we understand the historic issues which may impact upon its development," he said.
"At the same time, we have an urgent need to rationalise the inefficient and expensive use of three separate city-centre buildings for our civic administration functions. One option would be to lease space in the exciting new building planned for 90 Devonport Rd and council has agreed to explore that possibility with the developer."
Powell said the Devonport Rd development will create a significant number of jobs during the construction phase and achieve council's strategic objectives of realising value and facilitating quality commercial development.
"We're in the fortunate position of being able to act as the catalyst for a marquee project, which in conjunction with the nearby Farmers' retail, commercial and residential development, will provide some real impetus to the city-centre economy and create an attractive inner-city environment where people will want to live, work and play."
A report setting out council's civic accommodation needs, with recommended actions to address the longstanding issues involved, was adopted by elected members at a public excluded meeting on March 24.
The report has now been made public (with redactions to protect commercially sensitive information) and will be made available on council's website.
The purchase price for council's Devonport Rd properties will be disclosed following the completion of a due diligence feasibility investigation, and confirmation that the sale is unconditional.
Additional reporting - Carmen Hall