The last two weeks has seen a flurry of decisions from the newly-appointed commission at Tauranga City Council.
They have taken action on a number of projects, most notably the Memorial Park pool upgrade, a waste treatment upgrade, a new library, the civic administration building and the defunct carpark on Harrington Street.
From an economic perspective it is great to see council getting on with matters. Regardless of whether the decisions are ones that you may agree with, the positive thing is that the city is actually making decisions.
Now that we have clarity on some key matters, I would expect development in the CBD to take off.
The effect of the civic administration building decision on future development is worth thinking about. For those unaware, the current building on Willow Street is a leaker, with an entire floor uninhabitable for several years.
A decision to demolish the current site and build a new one has been on the table for a few years, with the site and developer/investor up in the air.
The effect of this disruption on council staff has been pronounced – they are split across three sites in an elongated state of makeshift arrangements, which is not an ideal position for any organisation trying to improve confidence and performance.
The prolonged delay causes flow-on effects across the entire CBD. There are several sites with willing developers ready to build a new office for the council. Council are a solid and reliable tenant, so most developers, not unreasonably, will wait to see if they can get the council’s business before exploring other options.
Indecision not only holds up this one development, it delays many others as everyone in the market then waits. Now that there is a plan locked in, these other parties will simply get on with other developments instead.
We now have good market signals about the Tauranga CBD, which will aide further developments. It has been hard to encourage new businesses and developers into the CBD and talk up a rejuvenation when the party with the most interest in it – the council – has been unable to invest itself.
These decisions send a very clear signal that Tauranga’s CBD is worth investing in. When you couple this positivity with the momentum we already have in buildings like Elizabeth Towers, The University of Waikato and an increasing amount of residential developments such as Latitude, the outlook is much stronger over the next five years.
More offices and residential accommodation in the city centre will result in a resurgence in retail. The benefits of a stronger CBD are huge; it is cheaper for the city to build up rather than out, and it will improve employment and transport options.
Now we have action in their city centre, the commissioners should be applauded for recognising the need for decisions and dealing to them in short order. That will only help our city.