Over the past few years, I have spent a considerable amount of my time offshore.

Whilst San Francisco and Silicon Valley have been home for a lot of that time, I have had the opportunity to live in different cities, in different geographies, including London, Hong Kong and Bangalore. You get to understand what makes cities tick.

What they all have in common is a commercial heart. It’s where people come to learn, work and play.

Now that I am based back in Tauranga, I have heard much said about the malaise of the city’s CBD. Tauranga City Council has been exploring different ways to re-energise it. Will free parking, lower shop rents and pavement buskers do the trick? In my view, band aid is not a long-term solution.

Leave Devonport Road however and walk just 50 yards up Spring Street and my vision of Tauranga’s future is becoming a reality. The quiet revolution that is Durham Street is underway. Within two to three years, Tauranga’s CBD will be transformed.

This revolution is being driven by three key developments; the Tauranga University campus, the TrustPower HQ and Basestation. Consider the impact that these three developments will have on the transformation of the city’s heart.

The Tauranga University Campus

Draft Design of new Tauranga University campus

Draft Design of new Tauranga University campus

With the recent sign off of the final round of funding by TECT enabling construction to commence, the first campus building is expected to open in 2016. The campus is aiming to initially provide tertiary education for around 1,500 students. Add an estimated 300 professors, teachers, research and support staff to the mix and already Devonport Road will be looking very different at lunchtime.

The TrustPower HQ

The new TrustPower Durham Street HQ

The new TrustPower Durham Street HQ

In early 2016, TrustPower are expected to move into their brand new purpose built headquarters. The company expect at least 450 staff to relocate to the Durham Street address.

The building will be manned 24/7 by customer service staff and technical staff remotely managing and monitoring TrustPower’s 38 New Zealand hydro schemes, two New Zealand wind farms, and the company’s Australian wind farm development, via satellite. It will also allow for anticipated growth as New Zealand’s fifth largest electricity retailer expands.

It will also allow for anticipated growth as New Zealand’s fifth largest electricity retailer expands. – See more at: http://sunlive.co.nz/news/66143-trustpower-confirms-cbd-move.html#sthash.NQSYDg1F.dpuf
the building will be manned 24/7 by customer service staff and technical staff remotely managing and monitoring Trustpower’s 38 New Zealand hydro schemes, two New Zealand wind farms, and the company’s Australian wind farm development, via satellite – See more at: http://sunlive.co.nz/news/66143-trustpower-confirms-cbd-move.html#sthash.NQSYDg1F.dpuf
the building will be manned 24/7 by customer service staff and technical staff remotely managing and monitoring Trustpower’s 38 New Zealand hydro schemes, two New Zealand wind farms, and the company’s Australian wind farm development, via satellite. – See more at: http://sunlive.co.nz/news/66143-trustpower-confirms-cbd-move.html#sthash.NQSYDg1F.dpuf
the building will be manned 24/7 by customer service staff and technical staff remotely managing and monitoring Trustpower’s 38 New Zealand hydro schemes, two New Zealand wind farms, and the company’s Australian wind farm development, via satellite. – See more at: http://sunlive.co.nz/news/66143-trustpower-confirms-cbd-move.html#sthash.NQSYDg1F.dpuf

Basestation

The technology hub that will be Basestation

The technology hub that will be Basestation

Basestation is well on target to open its doors to its first tenants in two months’ time. The old Police Station on Durham Street is being gutted to be replaced by a state of the art high-tech innovation centre. A number of local IT companies have already signed up to join the community and this 750m2 refit promises to accelerate the rapidly growing ICT sector that is evident across the wider Bay of Plenty region.

From Quite Revolution to Long-term Transformation

As Durham Street develops, so the transformational knock-on effects will flow through the City. This is not just a Tauranga story. As I said in the opening lines of this post, every major city I have lived in has a commercial heart at its centre. It’s what drives their economies and it’s what brings people into the city. Today’s quiet revolution reflects Tauranga’s coming of age.

Together, these three developments will bring thousands of people into the CBD. But it is only the beginning. Clusters will begin to develop around what will be three significant innovation-based hubs, bringing in new businesses and new jobs. The ecosystem and its scale will build.

It’s a tough call, but going forward, Tauranga City Council should re-focus its attention away from some of the immediate challenges facing retailers and look to the future. The longer term challenges facing the CBD are not the availability of free parking (that’s a cost to the city and its ratepayers) or pavement buskers. It is around affordable housing and a transport system that can transport literally thousands of people into and out of our city centre every day.

The rewards of this quiet revolution in terms of economic development and its impact on the people of Tauranga and the wider Bay of Plenty region, are incalculable.

It’s a long-term transformation that Wharf42 welcomes.

You can follow Wharf42 on Twitter at @Wharf42HQ