Rotorua could be a commercial property hotspot and business leaders say the city is ripe for the picking as it recovers from Covid-19.
Bright plans are in the pipeline for the CBD and work is going on behind the scenes to address the issue of homeless people.
Colliers International Rotorua has posted a record year and in the past three months, it has sold one premise to new businesses setting up in the CDB and one to an owner-occupier who will set up a new office.
A further three buildings, including the former AMI Insurance building, have been snapped up by private investors.
Digital Basecamp had expanded into the neighbouring building and Eruera Cottage Flair has opened a bigger retail floor area while Boss Brows had leased and fitted out its new premises at 1129 Pukuatua St.
Mark Rendell, from Colliers International, said the last investment return it sold was 7.5 per cent in the CBD while some industrial sales fetched about 5 per cent return.
He said people had to carry on and ''you can't be doom and gloom''.
''I think it is paying off for the ones who are taking a punt because they are all busy.''
Colliers was the busiest it had been since it opened four years ago while Rendell, who has been in the industry for 13 years, said it was also his busiest year ever.
''When you have businesses moving here and others expanding and doing fit-outs, that lifts confidence.''
Boss Brows owner Alyse Reichardt said the business moved from Lake Rd into the CBD on November 30.
''It was the most ideal place that offered my business the space it needed to expand into a training academy and salon and looked more professional for my customers.''
Covid had affected many businesses and Reichardt said it was a gamble, but she was busier than ever.
''When women feel good about themselves they have motivation and confidence to get through the day. I guess self-care is a priority in times like these.''
So far the shift had been good for business but there were some challenges.
''The pros are more foot traffic and a professional space that I am proud of. The cons are the homelessness.
''There is a housing complex across the road and there are a lot of people sitting around asking people walking by for cigarettes. They have visitors who often yell from the road up to those in the apartment and this can deter people from businesses.''
Reichardt has two part-time staff members who specialise in cosmetic eyebrow tattooing alongside other beauty services.
Meanwhile, Blur Eyecare Tauranga and Mount Maunganui owner Stuart Laing said he would open a new store in Rotorua in February.
''We are currently in the process of tarting up the property and fitting out the practice. We are hoping to be up and running at full noise by the end of February.''
Two optometrists and two dispensing opticians would work at Blur, as he preferred having small experienced teams.
To date, 2020 had been Blur's best year to date, he said, and it ''goes to show proof of concept''.
In his view, there was a need and want in Rotorua for the services Blur provided.
''An individual approach to our patients and their particular needs is a niche we excel in which is not being met in my Rotorua, in my opinion. I am aware that the current wait time for an eye test in Rotorua is many months which clearly shows that the city is under-serviced.''
Laing was also excited about the new venture.
''Rotorua is a vibrant CBD and I really look forward to getting back there and engaging with the town. I feel that Rotorua has a lot of opportunities to offer and many new people to meet.''
Rotorua Chamber of Commerce chief executive Bryce Heard said it was good to hear businesses were setting up in the CBD.
''It's really good news. And I would say that canny investors are probably buying while the market appears to be a little bit flat.''
He acknowledged the homeless problem in the CBD and said there was activity going on behind the scenes to address it, but that would take a little time.
''A smart investor might be investing now before the market turns around and prices start to rise.''
Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said the council's vision for a vibrant, safe and thriving inner city hadn't changed.
''The council is working hard alongside police and others to deliver an environment that's safe, where people can enjoy community activities like our markets, and that enables businesses to thrive, and encourages development and investment.''
The CBD was also a focus in the economic development strategy framework to support recovery and longer-term economic development in Rotorua, she said.
''Work is under way on options to incentivise and invest in CBD development, including housing development."
But Hennessy's Irish Bar owner Reg Hennessy said the bar was in its 19th year of trading and in his view the ''the CBD certainly seems to be in the worst state I have ever seen it''.
''There are so many empty shops and businesses already gone.''
Colliers International Rotorua recent sales and leases
* Tauranga Blur Eyecare purchased 1202 Pukaki St to set up a third shop.
* 1182 Haupapa St has sold to an owner-occupier who will be setting up a new office.
* Bill Davis shop at 1192 Eruera St has been sold to an investor currently doing retail renovations
* 1307 Tutanekai St, ex Ami insurance, has also sold to an investor.
* Ex Bike Culture 1129 Pukuatua St has been leased to Boss Brows.
* 1139- 1145 Tutanekai St has sold to a private investor.
* 1128 Hinemoa St, Digital Basecamp has expanded into the neighbouring building.
* 1129 Eruera St Cottage Flair has opened in a bigger retail floor area.