The Historic Village has come of age and it was not that long ago the place was struggling to find tenants and visitors. Carmen Hall reports on the remarkable turnaround and the upgrades made in the past three years.
More than $4.2 million has been pumped into revamping the Historic Village in the past three years and visitor numbers have soared by 49 per cent with no tenancies available.
The improvements have been hailed a huge success and a driver for tourism but Tauranga's mayor says, even more, should be invested in arts and culture in the city.
Figures from the Tauranga City Council show 257,572 people visited the village in the year to June 2019 compared with 130,516 over the same timeframes to June 2016.
Data also reveals there are currently 55 tenants including 53 per cent community tenants and 47 per cent commercial and retail tenants - with no vacancies available.
Meanwhile, $4.28m has been spent on revamps in the past three years on roof and exterior upgrades, fibre installation, four fire and emergency evacuation systems, CCTV, landscaping, drainage and bush revegetation.
Historic Village manager Blair Graham said the investment was making its vision to become a well-used community destination, highly valued by the community, a reality.
''The Historic Village has contributed to the vision going a long way to becoming reality, with increased visitor numbers, waiting lists for tenancies, more events and great feedback from our visitors.'
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''Testament to this is a recent Certificate of Excellence Award that the Historic Village received from Trip Advisor. The Historic Village has received 99 reviews and averaged a four out of five-star rating.''
Incubator Creative Hub director Simone Anderson said when the hub first moved to the Village six years ago her team joked about tumbleweeds rolling down the streets because it was deserted.
''That was one of the reasons it was accessible to us, it was very quiet. Now we have a big footprint in the Village.''
Since the moving in the Hub had opened a building every year including the Artery, the People's Gallery, the Jam Factory, Satellite Studios and another studio Okorore Ngā Toi Māori.
''We have grown organically and I think that is one of the really nice things about it.''
A foundation group of about 50 volunteers met once a month and were a massive cross-pollination of passionate people with great ideas, she said.
''We just love being here and we have got the best place in Tauranga. There is history here which all contributes to the positive vibe and it's really creative.''
Frances Cooper from The Whipped Baker had to be persuaded to move into the Village three years ago but her business has boomed.
The mother of five started the venture with her husband Aaron and one barista but now the couple employs about 12 staff.
The growth had been ''insane'' and ''I still don't understand how it has happened''.
The catering side of the business had also gone berserk, she said, and they were often filling up to eight orders a day.
''We love it and since we have been here the foot traffic has tripled. There have been a lot of renovations going on and the Village has become really beautiful with some amazing events.''
The newest resident Tony Poole from Roundabout Record store had come full circle after originally selling the business 20 years ago when it was based in Piccadilly Arcade.
Now Poole said he was living his lifestyle dream on his own terms and loving it.
The passionate music enthusiast said he liked the atmosphere at the Village and he enjoyed interacting with people from all walks of life and ages.
Tourism Bay of Plenty chief executive Kristin Dunne said the Village was an asset for Tauranga and the wider Bay of Plenty region.
''Not only is it an important community space but visitors can share in this and have a truly authentic, 'local' experience. The Historic Village also caters to our 'cultural explorers'; those who want to know the history of the destinations they visit.
''The Historic Village is preserving a slice of Tauranga Moana for future generations to learn about and explore.''
Last season's cruise activity expenditure injected $90.3m from 114 ships into the local economy.
About 45 per cent of the passengers that visited the i-SITE chose to take a local tour, she said.
''The passengers choosing to take local tours is increasing with each season as Tauranga's reputation as a world-class destination grows. Having more things to see and do here, such as the Historic Village, adds to this reputation.''
Mayor Tenby Powell said in his view arts and culture was underfunded and it was great to see how some minor investment had lifted visitor numbers at the Village.
This gives testimony to what happens when you spend money, he said.
''When I look at the combined entity of the Kollective, the Incubator and various art facilities down there it is a very special part of our offering to locals and tourists. This exemplifies why we need to do things to keep people in Tauranga.''