A trial revamp of lower Victoria Ave could be scrapped following opposition from business owners.
The Town Centre Regeneration Project is close to finalising plans to transform the block but in the face of opposition now says one option is "discontinuing the project".
The revamp involves turning 10 car parks into outdoor seating areas as well as painting iwi-inspired street art onto the road itself, similar to the Drews Ave revamp which was opened last month.
The $450,000 project is funded by Waka Kotahi / NZ Transport Agency's Innovating Streets fund with Whanganui District Council contributing 10 per cent.
The project is to take place on a trial basis for the first six months, before a decision will be made on its long-term future.
But a number of businesses on the block have raised concerns about the project, citing a lack of consultation and concern about the loss of car parks and its impact on business.
Opposition is being led by Mark Dyhrberg, the owner of Jolt Cafe on Victoria Ave, who said council consultation with affected businesses had been poor.
Dyhrberg has written a letter to Mayor Hamish McDouall and Town Centre Regeneration project manager Ellen Young, which said the consultation process was "flawed".
The letter has been signed by 12 businesses on the block.
"The above community group is concerned that the Whanganui District Council has pushed this project through in an untenable timeframe," the letter said.
Dyhrberg told the Chronicle he felt businesses had been "played off" against one another and "the consultation here has just been lacking".
"I just can't see how there is any positive impact from this," Dyhrberg said.
But Young said consulting with businesses had been a key focus of the project.
She said a preliminary meeting and three workshops had taken place that all affected stakeholders were invited to - in November 2020 and February and March this year.
"Our community consultation on this project has been very extensive, comprising a series of well-attended workshops, one-on-one meetings as requested by traders, online video, a public feedback letterbox, press releases and a wider community survey," she said.
Three different concepts were floated, ranging from a large scale transformation of the street, to a "soft touch" approach which would have the least impact on parking.
"It's a trial based on the outcome of installation," she said. "If that outcome is not successful, we can modify it or remove it."
The business owners' letter to council said the project "at varying levels is unwanted and will cause hardship to the very people whose businesses serve this block".
Embassy 3 cinema owner Gary Vinnell said with his business still struggling after Covid-19 restrictions, as well as the slow output of films due to the pandemic, the loss of carparking would be another kick in the guts.
Vinnell said he attended two meetings with the project managers, where he expressed some concerns about the economic impact of the project.
"The biggest issue that the rest of the block brought up was that they were taking away car parks. It's essential that these businesses have that facility close by," he said.
"There were some preliminary design meetings, and there was stuff put on the table, but nothing definitive."
Young said "buy-in" from businesses, iwi and the public, was too important.
"With the construction of the installations near complete, and objections recently raised, it makes it very difficult to revisit the community co-design process," she said.
"Because of this, one option among others now having to be considered is discontinuing the project at this stage.
"As part of this consideration will be reviewing how the design elements might be incorporated in the town centre in the future."
Council's group manager for regulatory and planning, Hamish Lampp, said the opportunity to develop lower Victoria Ave would pay dividends.
"Given the success of the Drews Ave trial one block over, with retailers reporting significant increases in trade and footfall in the area and positive public feedback, it would be a lost opportunity to not test the potential for similar success in the Avenue," Lampp said.
"The works are removable, designed to merely test the community's appetite for change."
Chair of the Town Centre Steering Group Committee, and Whanganui district councillor Helen Craig believed the project would add to the vibrancy of the block and attract more shoppers and sales.
"It would be a huge loss of potential if it were not to go ahead," she said.
"The council has limited funds, it will never receive such substantial funding again from a government source to enhance the Bridge Block let alone the remainder of the CBD area."