Wellington City councillors have signalled a return to Te Ngakau Civic Square after the organisation vacated its buildings there, which are riddled with seismic problems.
Mayor Andy Foster said Civic Square wasn't dead, but needed reviving.
"It kind of feels like it's in an induced coma at the moment."
The council is currently spending $3.6 million in rent for every year its buildings sit empty in the square.
The Civic Administration Building was damaged in the 2016 Kaikōura Earthquake and has been closed ever since. The council and insurers have finally reached an agreement to the tune of a $38-million payout.
The central library has been closed for more than a year due to seismic concerns. The city council has agreed to strengthen it, which is expected to cost between $160 and $180 million.
The Town Hall is currently undergoing seismic strengthening and has been closed for several years.
At a Strategy and Policy Committee meeting today councillors agreed the preferred option for dealing with the Municipal Office Building was to demolish it.
Now $750,000 will be set aside in the upcoming Long-term Plan for the consenting process to do so. This will later be taken to the public for consultation
This is after strengthening costs blew out to $84 million, which is about double the original estimates. The view is that strengthening the Municipal Office Building is no longer economically viable.
The building, or what might now be its replacement, is meant to be a part of a new National Music Centre where Victoria University's New Zealand School of Music and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra will be homed.
At the committee meeting, Arts, Culture and Events portfolio leader councillor Nicola Young also successfully passed an amendment about the council's future at Civic Square.
Councillors agreed the framework for Civic Square should be developed on the basis the council is committed to it being the musical, creative, and democratic heart of Wellington.
It also included an explicit signal that the return of the main Wellington City Council premises to the square is to be a part of the redevelopment.
Young told her colleagues the signal was about giving a sense of urgency and action to the Civic Square question.
"There is a real sense, fair or unfair, that nothing is happening in Wellington, the trouble is perception is reality. The city is crying out for leadership and action, and I think Civic Square has almost become an emblem of it."
The amendment also directed officers to prepare advice about future options for the Civic Administration Building in the Long Term Plan, and that all possible funding options were considered for both it and the Municipal Office Building.
Councillor Fleur Fitzsimons seconded the amendment, saying Wellington needed to get its heart back.
"Currently it looks like council is mothballing Te Ngakau Civic Square.
"Wellingtonians can forgive and understand delays, but only if there is a vision and a clear plan for the future."
Councillor Simon Woolf was also supportive and straight to the point- "We can't keep saving buildings that in some ways can't be saved and shouldn't be saved."
Foster didn't mince his words either.
"Frankly, how can you call it Civic Square if the civic is not there."
But Councillor Tamatha Paul and Iona Pannett raised concerns about investing in an area of the city that was low lying and vulnerable to sea level rise.
"If climate change didn't exist I would be support it, that's what is missing here is some robust consultation around climate change, Pannett said.
"It is time to start retreating ... we can't just keep building in places which are at risk."