On-street car parks will be traded for a greener sort of park at the top end of Elizabeth St with the green light given to an $11m streetscaping and renewal project.
But concerns have been raised about the timing and cost of the work, the loss of on-street parking, and the lack of allowance for cyclists.
On Tuesday, Tauranga City Council voted 6-4 to go ahead with a scaled-back version of what was initially a $20m plan for the CBD street.
The decision process sparked controversy, with one councillor refusing to vote and three walking out of the meeting after debate on the issue was cut short.
The project will focus on the block bordered by Elizabeth St, First Ave, Devonport Rd and Grey St, surrounding the under-construction $130m Farmers development, which will include a new flagship store and, in a later stage, apartments above.
The council will spend $2.39m renewing underground assets and $8.7m transforming the streets above.
On Elizabeth St, angle car parking will be replaced with parallel parking, but extra parking in Farmers would mean a net gain of 24 parks for the block.
The two-lane road will be narrowed, designed for a 30km/h speed limit and to be shared with cyclists.
That will allow for the Farmers side of the street to be turned into a 15m wide footpath, or linear park.
It will have trees and plants, a lawn area and things for kids to play on, as well as seats and parking for bikes.
The council is pitching it as a "welcoming park space" designed for pleasant breaks from work or shopping, with room for socialising and street performers.
Pedestrian crossings, an upgrade for the Grey St roundabout and improvements for First Ave and Devonport Rd for pedestrians and cyclists were also included.
The streetscaping spend included $1m for doing up the laneway between Elizabeth St and First Ave and $300,000 for stormwater system improvements.
Council staff reassured the council that the organisation had "learned lessons" from the Durham St streetscaping project, which suffered delays and millions in budget blowouts, largely blamed on unexpected underground issues.
The work will be timed to be ready the opening of the first stage of the Farmers building - the store - originally planned for April next year.
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Developer Elizabeth Properties Limited is reviewing its timeline for the build after the lockdown pause.
In the meeting, some councillors queried whether post-pandemic was the right time for this investment and additional CBD construction disruption, given tight competition for council capital spending.
Some backed doing the necessary underground work and the laneway as quickly as possible and returning the street to normal in time for Farmers opening then revisiting the plan later.
Staff said this could mean having to go back and rip up work and do it again.
It also emerged that staff of the Bay of Plenty Regional Council - which has its newly refurbished Regional House headquarters at the top of Elizabeth St - represented more than half of stakeholders consulted through workshops.
Staff said this was because they wanted office workers represented, but due to time constraints, decided it was easier to focus on one office, and chose the regional council.
Most regional council staff surveyed favoured the comprehensive option, as did residents and other key stakeholders, while businesses preferred the idea of doing less.
Public consultations were also held, in which a majority favoured the chosen option.
Julia Veitch, owner of Baywatch On Time on Elizabeth St, was worried about losing on-street parking in front of her store.
She believed most retailers in the area had the same view and preferred an option that would retain more on-street parking and reduce construction disruption.
"It's not going to be easy if they block the street. Retailers have already had enough disruption this year."
Other retailers in the street either did not want to comment or were not available yesterday, though one store manager said that although change would be hard, people would get used to it.
Downtown Tauranga manager Sally Cooke said creating better spaces for people in the city centre was essential to its revitalisation.
Timing and efficiency, however, would be critical to avoid causing retailers additional stress.
Sustainable Business Network regional co-ordinator Glen Crowther said some members were disappointed at how much the project had been scaled back, especially the lack of multi-modal options and a separate cycle lane.
Crowther said members questioned whether the council should have looked for a "do minimum" approach now and done a more comprehensive version later, especially given the competition for already-tight council funding.
Bike Tauranga chairman Kevin Kerr agreed a separate cycle lane would have been better.
Elizabeth Properties declined to comment on the council's decision but said the Farmers site was making great progress and back to pre-lockdown pace.
There had been good progress on the basement car park, with ramps down four of five parking levels, and the lower level of the new flagship Farmers store was almost complete, with the upper level "progressing nicely".
How they voted
• For: Tenby Powell, Larry Baldock, Heidi Hughes, Kelvin Clout, Jako Abrie, Tina Salisbury
• Against: Steve Morris, Andrew Hollis, Dawn Kiddie, Bill Grainger
• Refused to vote: John Robson