The changing face of our CBD

By: Nigel Tutt

Nigel Tutt
Chief Executive of Priority One

At Priority One we often get asked about Tauranga CBD and its prospects for the future.

Generally these discussions don’t start off on a positive note - it’s no secret that the CBD has struggled in recent years.

Many are concerned at the flight of retailers to places like Bayfair and Tauranga Crossing, and certainly Devonport Road has its fair share of vacancies.

This is not a unique problem to Tauranga. Worldwide, suburban malls tend to dominate retail business. There are a few factors that haven’t helped in this city too, including an historic lack of civic investment, seismic and geo-technical issues, lack of parking and a fragmented owner base.

At Priority One we are fortunate to see the planning for many developments years before they happen. Based on that, I’m very confident for the future of Tauranga’s CBD - it might just look a bit different from what it has in the past.

Confidence in the CBD is underpinned by several major developments that are either underway now or will be in the future. Leading this is the Thirty Eight Elizabeth/Farmers development, which will combine a retail and hospitality offering with city living.

There are also several office developments about to commence construction, with a trend for businesses to move back into the city centre. Alongside this are other large developments, like the new and expanded courthouse announced last month.

Expect to see further developments near the university as it expands and attracts more students over the next few years. This will require more dedicated buildings and student accommodation blocks, like the one opened earlier this year on Selwyn Street.

I also expect to see more developments on the civic front, in part replacing buildings that are no longer fit for purpose but also providing more spaces for people to enjoy the city. Combined, the value of the developments from all sectors are worth around $1 billion in construction value, with most of this coming from the private sector.

More importantly, these developments will collectively bring a lot more people into the city centre; working, studying and living.

In catering for the increased amount of people, particularly those living in the CBD, we have a real opportunity to add vibrancy and interest - think making the most of our alleyways, waterfront and views.

Rather than developments being retail-led, I expect retailers to pop up around the changing needs of the city, so expect more boutique or non-mainstream offerings.

One type of development that we haven’t seen a lot of yet, but we very much need, is mid-market apartment units.

So far, developments have been oriented to the higher end of the market which is understandable, but I would expect that the strong demand for more affordable housing will drive this part of the market, and the CBD is perfect for it.