It used to be where Tauranga citizens went to pay their rates, lodge a building permit or complain about overgrown fire hazards around the city.
Now the former home of the Tauranga City Council has been reinvigorated into a funky retail, food, drink and entertainment village built from shipping containers.
The unique setting has transformed what was a sterile administration space between the public library and the city’s bus hub into something very special.
And the impact on the downtown area since August 2017 has been remarkable.
Housed within Our Place are 15 permanent outlets offering a diverse range of food, including noodles, dumplings, loaded fries and American barbecue, plus coffee, ice creams, boutique beer, hip clothing, artefacts and ceramics.
There is something for everyone, plus pop-up stalls, live entertainment, night cinema screenings, popular community workshops and much more.
It really is a pleasant oasis, and ideal to get out of the summer sun and away from all the construction work transforming the city skyline.
The glorious aroma of chicken and ribs smoking away in Morepork BBQ’s custom built smoker is a tantalising drawcard for hungry passers-by.
Owner Clint Davies set up his original store in Ponsonby, Auckland and has been at Our Place since it opened.
He loves being part of a new project, building it up from scratch to be a significant part of the lifeblood of downtown Tauranga.
“Basically we are building a community of people who are here to work together,” he says.
Getting up close and personal with his customers is an important part of what makes Our Place special for Clint.
“Interaction with the customers definitely helps, because it really gets them to understand what you are trying to do and what you are trying to put out.
“Everything we do is cooked with care and it takes a long time. It is good they can see it happening and everything we sell is smoked and cooked the correct way.
“Being able to explain that to people is important. Sometimes it is a little difficult for people to try something different because they haven’t seen American barbecue before.
“But once they have eaten it they wonder why they haven’t eaten it before.”
Our Place co-director Rachelle Duffy says it has been really successful from the start.
“Not only have we brought new retailers and new businesses back into the CBD, but we are also getting the community back in,” she says.
“For example, we have a free kids’ club workshop for kids to come to while they are on holiday.
“We have free live music on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, and we have High Tide, which has just under 40 taps of craft beer.
“So we are bringing in quite a lot to the region that is not already here.
“It also has a flow-on affect to the CBD in general. Comments we get from people is that they are now coming here for dinner rather than going to Mount Maunganui.”
One of the first things you notice walking around Our Place is the positive vibe among retailers and shoppers.
Many first timers have that refreshingly happy look on their faces from having stumbled upon something rather different.
Vatima Butler works at the beautiful JS Ceramics store. She loves the cute village so much that she wants her special day to be held there.
“We love Our Place so much we are planning to have our wedding here,” she says.
“This place really draws people to Tauranga. In my opinion, if I had not been working here, I would not come into town often. Even on my days off I come here now.
“I feel it just brings the community together. There is always something interesting going on at Our Place. These are all local businesses and people like to support them.”
Vatima notices how often people are surprised to see a ceramics store at Our Place.
“Yeah they are shocked to find us here. They love coming around to find little nick-nacky things that you couldn’t just find anywhere else.
“We have very unique pieces that are different from the norm.”
Rachelle Duffy says the future looks bright indeed. “We have new retailers coming in, and new food outlets and events coming in.
“We have quite a few events programmed for February and March, plus we have international artists coming to play here in the future.”
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