Grubby part of town to blossom

Artists impression. Photo: Supplied.

“It’s just screaming for development,” was Simon Bridges’ reaction to news of a concept to transform Dive Crescent at the northern end of Tauranga’s downtown waterfront.

“A flower waiting to bloom,” he said, “and a lost opportunity that may not be lost after all.

“At the moment, there’s a railway and siding, long grass and some ramshackle buildings,” says the Tauranga MP and Leader of the Opposition, “so a vision of making not a lot into something special is one I would wholly support.”

He was offering his thoughts on Tauranga City Council’s decision to demolish a row of old buildings opposite the Cargo Shed - one adorned with an elaborate street mural - and the concept for a Dive Crescent development produced by Wingate Architects.

The plans include a sophisticated waterfront cityscape of apartments, commercial and retail space and open public space, and has been described by Wingates as more than an architect’s dream.

However, chair of the TCC’s transformation committee, Larry Baldock, is a little more skeptical, saying the concept for Dive Crescent is “blue sky” – in other words, fanciful and probably won’t lead to anything.

But he says the Wingate concept certainly displays what can be done and all the possibilities. “There was definitely a commercial element,” says Larry, “so it would be funded by commercial returns and not a council ratepayer project. For those, reasons it’s interesting.”

He agrees with the MP that for too long it’s been a grubby part of town. “It’s a beautiful piece of waterfront,” he says, “so we should see a design we are all very proud of and it won’t fall on ratepayers to fund it.”

 “There would be a lot of work, financing and issues to deal with to get there,” says Simon, “but I totally support its development.”

He says his long held view is that Tauranga needs to focus on the CBD and its surrounds, including Dive Crescent. “Otherwise we risk, as we continue to grow, of becoming a bit of a mini Auckland, rather than a vibrant city with a heart.”

What would the MP like on Dive Crescent? “That depends on what they think they can make fly,” is his response. “But given the population trend in Tauranga, there will always be room for more eateries and retail. There’s potential for commercial businesses alongside the more consumer focused businesses.”

When the buildings are demolished, the Dive Crescent site will become a carpark, but only in the interim.

There are still ownership and valuation issues over the 3400-square metre seaward strip of land to be resolved. Only then can they start developing concepts.

Simon also had some pointed advice on the Wharf Street restaurant precinct after the City Transformation Committee this week signed off $190,000 to create a detailed design to upgrade Wharf Street.

“The problem with Wharf Street at the moment is the compromise between cars and people,” says Simon. 

“But I have always said they should pedestrianise a lot of the core CBD, so if you are going to do it, then do it. Get rid of the cars and go for it.”

Wharf Street is a focus for cafes, restaurants and bars, and TCC has been running a trial to introduce more shared space and outdoor seating areas.