The proposal to turn the harbour end of Tauranga's Wharf St into a car-free zone with charming outdoor dining has one constant comparison: Rotorua's Eat Streat.
The tourist town's dining precinct has been a runaway success since it became a permanent fixture at the lakefront end of Tutanekai St just over five years ago.
The $2.9 million project brought in just under $52,000 in revenue for the Rotorua Lakes District Council last financial year from businesses renting footpath space, with rates on top of that, against an annual maintenance budget of about $48,000.
It has provided both inspiration and a model of success for Tauranga, but not everyone is sure New Zealand's fifth-largest city is ready to replicate it.
Construction could begin as soon as April, but Tauranga City Council has yet to give the proposal a final go ahead, with a decision about the next steps due on August 27.
Wharf St and Eat Streat had a core concept in common: turn a road with a view into an atmospheric pedestrian plaza with varied restaurant and bar options that will draw diners downtown.
In execution and context, however, they would be quite different.
Eat Streat has 15 premises. Wharf St has 19 on the ground floor, of which most are eateries but also shops, offices and the Tauranga Art Gallery.
It would be lined with trees and low gardens where Eat Streat is framed by wooden beams and potted plants.
Eat Streat has a retractable (but rarely opened) transparent roof to protect diners from the elements (the $343,201 cost of which businesses are gradually paying the council back for), while Wharf St would remain open air.
Concept designs show clusters of lights on strings hanging between pillars rather than attached to buildings.
When the precinct idea was trialled in 2015 strings of similar lanterns plummeted to the ground when the building masonry they were attached to failed.
The councils took similar processes: closing the road to trial the concept and reopening it to see if people missed it before making a permanent move.
Eat Streat's biggest early detractors were other businesses who felt it would draw customers away.
That feeling also existed in the Tauranga market, said Hospitality Association spokesman Alan Sciascia.
"Businesses on the fringe will probably suffer as customers move away from their premises to Wharf St."
Similar arguments have been made about Our Place, the container village on Willow St part-funded by Tauranga's council.
"I appreciate the council is trying to bring some vibrancy but there is always a cost to someone when there is a benefit," Sciascia said.
Rotorua Lakes councillor Karen Hunt, a fervent supporter of Eat Streat from its inception, said there would always be detractors when trying something innovative.
"It's really important the community share and support the dream ... [but] there will be doubters."
Hunt advised Tauranga not to skimp on the design elements.
"It must be beautiful."
While the canopy was vital to Eat Streat's concept, that may not be true in Tauranga. A roof could always be added later, she said.
Wharf St property owner Greg Robison told Tauranga's council last week most owners did not think a roof was necessary.
Paul Crowther, of Eat Streat original Brew bar, agreed.
He said Wharf St was well orientated for protection from southerly winds and Tauranga was usually a couple of degrees warmer than Rotorua.
The success of Eat Streat had been "profound" but he was not sure Tauranga was ready for the concept.
Crowther opened a Brew bar on The Strand but it did not take off so he closed it about two years ago.
"What works in Rotorua won't necessarily work in Tauranga but I applaud them for trying."
In his experience, people did not gravitate to Tauranga's CBD the way they did in Rotorua.
"The problem with Tauranga culture is that people are not prepared to walk more than five minutes from their car park. They need to get over that."
He advised Wharf St owners to form a strong association to get through the construction and settling-in periods.
Jessica Rafferty, owner of the Crown and Badger on the corner of Wharf St and The Strand, said business owners were co-ordinating with each other and collaborating with the council.
While Eat Streat was an inspiration, she said the "stunning design" created for Wharf St was quite different and would celebrate the special mix of offerings.
"It will be really cool when it's done ... It will definitely change the downtown area of town."
Like other business owners, she was worried about the construction period - especially after delays in Durham St. She was, however, confident in the council's planning.
The council has said it will apply the lessons from Durham St, and other recommendations from an independent review of some of its projects, and apply those lessons to Wharf St.
That included ongoing communication with businesses, taking more time to scope, design and investigate, using ground-penetrating radar to better understand the underground infrastructure, increasing the budget for contingencies and more peer reviews.
About a third of the $4.9m estimated budget was for streetscaping, with the rest on infrastructure renewals and contingency.
'We've taken a big gamble'
For Wharf St bar owner David Stanway, the difference between failure and success hangs on the length of the construction period.
The Hop House at 12 Wharf St was his third hospitality venture in Tauranga, second in the CBD, with wife Christine Hamilton.
It opened four months ago, almost two years after they closed their award-winning Hop House in Mount Maunganui.
"We've risked everything to come here. We sold our home to do this," he said.
The proposal to transform Wharf St was part of the location's appeal.
"We are excited by it. I think it will be a real asset to the city."
But they also knew it was a big gamble, with the street potentially ripped up in just their second year of operation.
"We were prepared to put up with the pain for the end gain."
He did not believe his business would survive construction delays on the scale of those seen in Durham St.
The proposed construction period for Wharf St is April to October/November next year.
Stanway reckoned the business could get through "six months of turmoil" if it could make up the losses with an event-filled launch of the precinct and a clear run at the traditionally strong pre-Christmas months.
"But I honestly think we will not make it if we are still building next summer."
He said council staff had assured him they had learned from Durham St and were well prepared for Wharf St, but he wanted to hear from the councillors, too.
He said he would not mind if the project did not go ahead, but if that happened the council should still close the street to cars and let business owners work collectively on their own plan.