After years of debate, a small step has been taken towards getting a $4.9m plan to turn Wharf St into a pedestrianised 'eat street'.
But a battle may be brewing over a much larger streetscaping project - the $20.3m Elizabeth St proposal.
In a meeting of Tauranga City Council's Projects, Services and Operations Committee yesterday, all but two councillors (Bill Grainger and Catherine Stewart) voted to allow staff to workshop detailed designs for Wharf St ahead of another council meeting on August 27.
Council staff were also asked to get commitments from businesses for licences to occupy the on-street dining areas that would be created in the revamped street.
The meeting heard those licenses could bring in around $50,000 in revenue a year for Wharf St.
Wharf St property owner Greg Robison said he believed retailers would be willing to commit to taking out licences - provided that process did not hold up the decision-making process any more.
He said Wharf St business and property owners were ready for the project to get a green light and to start the six-month construction period at Easter.
He said retailers needed the project needed to be well executed.
"We cannot afford a delay like Durham St."
Businesses had already started preparing for the transition and building owners had spent big money - $1m or more in some cases - upgrading their buildings in anticipation.
However, the proposal for Elizabeth St looked to be on much shakier ground.
In the meeting, it just scraped together enough votes (6-5) to move to the next, small, phase of work: workshops with stakeholders.
Concept plans would see one side of the CBD end of the street turned into a park with a walking and cycling path, and a focal point around the $130m Farmers redevelopment.
Several councillors expressed concerns about the cost of the project and the timing.
Others said it was a vital part of revitalising the CBD and attracting more people to live, work and shop there plus have developers to build there.
Councillor Rick Curach said he found it hard to get excited about spending "a bunch of money" on Elizabeth St over other projects.
"Its a bit windy, and slopes downhill ... That part of town doesn't really excite me."
Deputy Mayor Kelvin Clout said he was concerned about the costs and suggested the council might scale down the project and focus on the area around Farmers.
Councillor Larry Baldock said the increased property values from private developments in the CBD would bring in hundreds of thousands in rates, lessening the share of the city's running costs paid by other ratepayers.
The meeting heard every $50m worth of new development brought in extra rating revenue of about $99,000.
Councillor Steve Morris said he had no confidence the council could deliver "digging up a street and planting some trees" for $20m and the money would be better spent on projects like the Mauao base track remediation.
Councillor Terry Molloy said the council needed to support struggling CBD retailers by getting projects such as Elizabeth St - and Wharf St - over the line.
Later, representatives of Mainstreet Tauranga called on the council - as well as the community - to do more to help "passionate" business owners trade through a period of exceptional and unprecedented change in the CBD.
Chairman Brian Berry said the council changing its mind all the time was creating uncertainty for business owners.
A proposal for streetscaping The Strand extension, at the end of Elizabeth St, will come back to the council in December.
The streetscaping projects also included substantial sums for upgrading infrastructure such as pipes and roading in tandem.