Gorgeous, wonderful, idealist, ugly, terrible, positive, monolithic.
These are just some of the words CBD businesses and ratepayer groups have used to describe Tauranga City Council's plans to build a new civic precinct downtown.
While many applauded the proposal, others have raised concerns about parking and the construction period, while one critic likened the initial design to a "post-Second World War German block of lots".
Tauranga City Council formally adopted the Tauranga Civic Masterplan at a meeting yesterday, with plans to consult the community next year.
The proposal includes a museum, refurbished library, civic whare and hotel set around a multi-purpose outdoor space connected to the waterfront.
Development of the main civic precinct and waterfront area is estimated to cost up to $300 million, with building work starting in mid-2022. The council has said construction of the hotel, conference and performing arts centre would be largely privately funded, with the council likely to help pay operating costs.
The precinct would be built in and around the Durham St, Strand, Hamilton St and Spring St block.
On the quiet streets of the CBD yesterday, business owners were hopeful.
Dry Dock Cafe owner Kim Ort said the proposed plan was "gonna be just gorgeous" and hoped it might drive more foot traffic through Devonport Rd.
Her only concern was the potential for a wind tunnel, which she hoped the council would be wary of.
Colonial Antiques owner Sandy Woodward said the plan was "a wonderful idea" and the "lovely spaces" would bring more people into the CBD.
"It can only be positive."
High Street Boutique owner Mary Borman said a precinct would be "just perfect" and encourage more foot traffic. But she wasn't keen on the initial building design images released by the council, saying she thought it was "terrible" and would attract graffiti.
The Barrel Room owner Stewart Gebbie said the plan was a "great concept" but he had some reservations.
He was grateful to the council for its work to upgrade Wharf St but said no one came to town anymore.
"If they do come here, where are they gonna park?"
He also had concerns about how the construction period would impact businesses.
"It's gonna be awful for the duration. Just as businesses start to get on their feet . . . I appreciate what [the council is] doing, but it does hurt business."
Pāpāmoa Residents and Ratepayers Association's Philip Brown was concerned the project would generate debt for the city, and was also not keen on the designs.
"It looks like a post-WWII German block of lots," he said. "It's mono-colour, monolithic. It looks pretty ugly."
He said he would have preferred the design to have come via contest for "best value".
Tauranga Ratepayers' Association spokesman Ross Crowley said there was no question the CBD needed a reboot.
He believed, however, the proposed museum would be a "white elephant" that would soak up money that could be better used elsewhere.
"It's an idealist vision of what a town planner thinks should be in Tauranga. It's not necessarily what the people of Tauranga want for Tauranga."
In a press release, Urban Task Force chairman Scott Adams said the group - which includes developers, investors, professionals and iwi - was "100 per cent behind investment into our city centre to create a place we are proud of . . ."
He said the project would be "our coming of age as a city".
The group advocated for a funding partnership deal based on the City Deals model used in Australia to secure funding for large infrastructure projects.
In yesterday's meeting, Sharp Tudhope partner John Gordon implored the commission to explore different financial options to ensure the project went ahead.
"People might be frightened of the cost but I'm sure there will be some Government funding . . . we need to explore those options. The naysayers will be worried about the cost but if it's appropriately done, it's totally doable."
Gordon said the business community needed consistency and certainty after "flip-flopping" by the council.
"We must protect that and we must do anything we can to stop that confidence being eroded."
This was a chance to "restore civic pride", Gordon said.
"I think the CBD is horrible. It's an embarrassment."
The council has been considering building a civic precinct since toxic black mould was found in its Willow St civic administration building in 2014.
Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Matt Cowley told the meeting the organisation fully supported the masterplan.
Commission Stephen Selwood said he hoped the community would endorse the proposal when it goes out for consultation early next year.
"We've seen the legacy of the cynics . . . We see it in the empty shops, we see it here in this building with black mould in 2014. This is about investing in the future of this city."
Commissioner Bill Wasley said the new civic space would be something "we can all be proud of".
Commission chairwoman Anne Tolley spoke of the "decay" of the CBD and that "this is a real turning point for Tauranga city".
Tolley acknowledged the commission was not elected by the people and had a "unique opportunity" to create transformational change for Tauranga.
"We take it very seriously and think this is a way we can give back to the community."
Commissioner Shadrach Rolleston said the plan, which recognises mana whenua and the land's history, honoured the Treaty of Waitangi - which wasn't "just about Māori".
"The Treaty . . . is about all of us. It's actually that shared relationship of this site," Rolleston said.
"Our task now over the next 12 months is to put us on the trajectory to delivery this."
A report including greater clarity on costs and design is expected to be presented to the council in February before the consultation begins. The commission also agreed to begin a process to amend the Long-Term Plan 2021-31 to include the project.
The Commission is expected to make its final decision on how the project will be phased and funded by the end of June 2022.