Tauranga's revamped Wharf St is ready for customers after being completed on schedule and under budget.
The project, which began in March with a $5.56 million budget, is aimed at enhancing the city centre and is designed to create a safe, attractive and people-friendly space with outdoor dining.
The final touches are being made, with overhead lights, meant to represent clouds, set to be turned on this coming Tuesday.
Tauranga City Council urban spaces development manager Doug Spittle was thrilled the revamp came in under the budgeted cost.
"We're coming in under the total budget and we will know exactly how much under when we wrap everything up. But we are confident that is where we're tracking, so we're really happy with that.
"Everybody is just on a high. The team including Higgins, CGC, Grind King and Isthmus endured 2020 through tiring conditions and have delivered the project under budget. It's really satisfying for everyone."
The project includes the installation of new water and sewer mains, repairs to the existing stormwater pipes, installation of a new surface drainage system and the infrastructure required for the new lighting system.
Lighting, seating and new planting also adorn the space, where retailers can extend seating on to the paved pedestrian area.
The only thing left is for people to come to enjoy it, Spittle said.
"It's here for the community, it's their project and it's just a space to enjoy."
The lights imitate a gathering of clouds at the coastal edge, reflecting what Spittle hopes the space will be used for.
"We want people to come here, gather and tell stories.
"This is basically a new space for people that was previously for cars. It was a street like any other, the carriageway was dominated by vehicles and you couldn't escape the traffic - and now you can."
There had been no formal complaints about disruptions to business or any other matters, he said.
Fences around the site were taken down last week and Hop House bar owner David Stanway noticed the difference in foot traffic immediately.
"People started confidently coming down the street and that's built and built and carried on through this week."
Stanway said the construction phase had been hard on business.
"After Covid, it really has impacted all of our businesses here. But it's great that it's nearly finished and we are excited for the future. It brings us more into a cosmopolitan city."
Dry Dock Cafe owner Sandra Johnson agreed it had been difficult, but so had the move to work from home following the lockdown.
"It's definitely been disruptive ... this has been our most challenging year in business."
Johnson said she had relied on regular customers to see her through but was elated now the upgrade was completed.
"To have it pedestrianised, it's going to be cool to see people walk wherever they want to walk without having to worry about cars, and it lends itself nicely because it goes straight out to the water and the playground."
Josh Fitzgerald used the period to rename and transform what was Rye - American Kitchen and Spirits, which he co-owns, to Sugo, an Italian restaurant.
"We obviously knew we were looking down the barrel of a pretty quiet patch with Covid and the street closing, so we used that opportunity to sort of rebrand ourselves."
With the restaurant's fourth Friday under its belt, Fitzgerald was eager for the space to be enjoyed now that people could explore the street.
"We haven't done any advertising aside from Facebook and Instagram, so people walking down the street being able to see us has made such a big difference."
Priority One chief executive Nigel Tutt believed the redevelopment looked great.
"There is a good pipeline of developments planned for Tauranga's CBD so the future is bright, and while we recognise there's a long way to go right now, improvements like this are a great boost."
Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Matt Cowley believed the completed redesign would attract restaurants that would want to make the most of an alfresco dining experience.
"It is one of the few retail places in the city centre that captures the afternoon sun. I believe it's the right decision as there were very few car parks down there anyway."
It was now critical that the council supported Wharf St by not charging restaurants licence-to-occupy fees under the public spaces bylaw, Cowley believed.
Feedback from chamber members was "mostly positive", with strong trading through the Christmas period so far - particularly for Grey St retailers, who had bounced back strongly since lockdown, Cowley said.
However, Tauranga's once-thriving CBD has been described as being in the worst state it ever has and is now dealing with a transition period.
Cowley said there was no silver-bullet solution for the CBD but it was the accumulation of efforts that would attract more professionals and customers into the city centre.
"It will also demonstrate to developers that a city centre is an attractive place that people want to live to in to avoid the daily peak-traffic congestion."