Covid-19 could be the catalyst to reshape Rotorua's CBD and now is the time for brave, bold plans, a prominent business leader says.
Rotorua Chamber of Commerce chief executive Bryce Heard said businesses were hurting and there were empty shops in the town centre but a united vision was needed more than ever.
''I believe that there is a tremendous will in the general populace to work together to get that outcome. And that will have been strengthened by the advent of the Covid-19 disaster. So there will never be a better time to come up with a brave new plan for the CBD.''
Heard said if everyone was on the same page and could work together the combined efforts could reap big benefits for Rotorua.
He was in favour of more Māori architecture as Māoridom was at the heart of Rotorua.
''Māori architecture is very attractive. Eat Streat was supposed to replicate the look of a giant waka made out of wood.
''Rotorua has got three things that no one else has really got. It's the centre of Māoridom, the epicentre of wood and we have geothermal.''
Mayor Steve Chadwick said the council wanted a vibrant city heart that people could enjoy visiting, which provided a supportive environment for businesses and encouraged inner-city living.
A lot has been done to improve the inner city environment during recent years, she said.
''But as with everything, we need to keep reviewing and reassessing to ensure we're able to achieve the outcomes we want.''
During recent years the council had undertaken safety improvements, beautification, improvements to intersections and gathering spaces and created Eat Street.
It had established weekly Thursday night and Sunday morning markets, along with other activation events and activities to bring people into the CBD, she said.
''We've also been saying for some years now that we'd like to see more inner-city living and there are opportunities for property owners to consider that.''
Professionals Rotorua McDowell Real Estate commercial salesperson Nadia Christensen said she had noticed more shop vacancies in the CBD and some landlords had reduced rents by up to 50 per cent during Covid-19.
''I would say all good landlords have been or will be helping tenants in any way to keep their premises full and occupied. Times will be tough for all trading sectors in town and in the suburbs and industrial areas for a wee while. Landlords simply will need to be flexible and reasonably fair.''
But there was still activity with businesses opening and moving sites.
''I have leased a retail space during lockdown to a fantastic new business that will be opening up soon in the old Webbs shoe shop space.''
Christensen said she believed Rotorua would definitely bounce back.
''There are some really creative, entrepreneurial people living around here and in the woodwork who will flourish.''
Meanwhile, Colliers International Rotorua broker Mark Rendell said the market was tight prior to Covid-19, particularly in the industrial sector with a low rate of vacancies at about 5 per cent.
''It has been encouraging to see that both tenants and owner occupiers are still trying to fulfil their pre-Level 4 requirements – and there seems to be plenty of goodwill around this.''
Early indications are that rental and sale prices are set to stay at close to pre-Covid levels, he said.
''Our year to date totals to the end of March were higher than the same period in 2019, and to date we are sitting at around the same level as this time last year.''