After being shut for seven years, Hastings Municipal Building is about a year away from completion, transformed into a multi-use space with a new roofed laneway with its heritage retained.
The building and the Opera House closed their doors in 2014 when it was revealed it was earthquake prone.
Toitoi – Hawke's Bay Arts & Events Centre reopened in March 2020 and the Municipal Building – which has been touted by Hastings District Council as "the final piece" of the art precinct puzzle – is now just under a year away from opening.
In a walk through the building on Thursday, Hastings mayor Sandra Hazlehurst was excited about how the building is coming along.
The ground floor of the building, previously home to a furniture shop, will have up to three hospitality venues - a restaurant space at the western end, a cafe-type offering on the corner of Hastings St and Heretaunga St East, and a small 33sq m spot off the central laneway which could be a whisky, cider or gin bar or something similar.
There are five other spaces on the ground floor for tenancies, although some could be combined, depending on the offering.
The i-Site combined with the Toitoi ticketing office will be moving to one of the spaces and an art gallery is another possible tenancy.
Hazlehurst said council staff have been working to get expressions of interest for the spaces, with a lot of interest coming from local Hawke's Bay businesses.
The ground-floor spaces will be an opportunity to showcase what the region has to offer, she said.
The main new change to the building has been the wide laneway between the Municipal Building and the Opera House, which will have the Quest Hotel backing on to it when that is complete.
Diners at the hospitality venues will be able to sit in the laneway and there will be stairs and balconies going up the side of the space.
"It's just going to add a whole new dynamic," Hazlehurst said.
Upstairs there are a range of rooms which will be available for hire.
The heritage Shakespeare Room was formerly home to the council chambers and will now be a space for hire with a balcony overlooking Hastings St, where the mayor would have originally addressed the people of Hastings.
The art-deco style Assembly Room was previously used for events, school balls, dances and weddings and many people will have their own memories of the room.
Hazlehurst recalls going to dances there, as did her parents.
The room will be used for this again and has openings to the balcony overlooking Heretaunga St East and Juliet balconies above the laneway.
It will also see the return of the Art Deco Ball in 2023, Hazlehurst said.
Another change has been putting the lightwell back into the building, which had been closed up at some stage previously.
The heritage of the historic building has been retained, with original pressed-metal ceilings being repaired and replicated for use throughout the building, along with the original windows and stained-glass features on the outside of the building.
The Municipal Building is anticipated to open in May 2022.