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CBD’s transform as live, work and play districts

Bricks and mortar retail is no longer the main reason to go into the CBD’s of Hastings, Havelock North and Napier.

The continued growth of online shopping is reshaping our CBD’s to be the heart of our cities as a broader mix of living, working and play areas. Councils and private developers such as Wallace Developments and entrepreneur Michael Whittaker have invested many millions to revitalise our CBD’s in recent years. Hastings District Council has recently completed a 10 year revitalisation plan for the Hastings CBD which culminated in spending $60 million redeveloping the historic Hawke’s Bay Opera House complex – now called Toitoi.

As well as an arts and culture hub it has attracted new hospitality offerings such as Craft & Social, Cellar 495 and Long Island Delicatessen, joining the other more established Fun Buns, the Common Room and Brave. Hastings’ first ever hotel, Quest, has also just opened.

The council has also revamped pocket parks and bought buildings to be replaced by lane ways, improving connectivity between Heretaunga Street and side roads. The investment has in turn attracted new businesses into the city such as Datacom, Fingermark, AskYourTeam, along with luring the region’s economic development support agencies such as Hawke’s Bay Chamber of Commerce and Export HB from Ahuriri, Napier.

The Tribune complex has also become a major feature of the CBD and other buildings that are being redeveloped include the former Breakers restaurant, now called H Central and the Westpac high-rise complex.

Council also went through a resource consent application to covert the old Farmers Transport building in Queen Street into apartments. In June and July there was a flurry of resource consent applications for Havelock North, perhaps to get in before the new development contribution rates come into effect.

A Quest hotel is proposed for Joll Road, a new commercial complex on Havelock Road and stage 3 of the mixed-use retail, hospitality and offices in Joll Road.


Colliers Hawke’s Bay Director Danny Blair is the Bay’s leading commercial deal maker, having been involved in many significant sale and lease deals across the region’s CBDs. Danny says Hastings, Havelock North and Napier CBD’s are all close to commercial office capacity and the region is facing a significant shortage of premium office space. He says the renaissance of Hastings has provided renewed confidence thanks to quality developments such as Tribune Development, 101 Queen Street East as well as major investment by council. “Hastings has certainly turned the corner and there’s some great examples of quality development that we can showcase to prospective tenants.

“The biggest issue however is car parking for staff and it makes it significantly harder if you’re pitching to businesses with large workforces.” Napier, which lost some momentum due to a drop in tourists, is now also showing promising signs with Colliers negotiating the Wallace Developments purchase of Dalton House and Vautier House, the largest office setting in the region at 8400m2.

Danny says this project is a game-changer for Napier, invigorating its commercial landscape and adding to the city’s vibrancy. Te Whatu Ora Hawke’s Bay (formerly the Hawke’s Bay District Health Board) will be the anchor tenant, taking up over 2100m2 of office space. “This has created some really strong interest from other prospective tenants and we believe it will be filled quickly. Havelock North continues to transform as a high-end retail, hospitality and professional services precinct and Danny expects some exciting new developments to be announced in the next twelve months. “

Joll Road has changed dramatically already and a Quest Hotel resource consent has been lodged and local developers have also acquired the properties from BNZ to Westpac
on Te Mata Road with an eye for an exciting multi-million dollar complex. As our CBD’s transition and expand the CBD business associations will be looking to ensure their retail and professional service members benefit as well as ensuring visitors get a positive experience.

Hastings Business Association’s acting general manager Emma Sey is excited about the future of her CBD, and although there has been growth in online shopping, nothing can replace the experience of going into retail stores like Thomson Suits and Hutchinsons Furniture. “I have no doubt that online shopping growth will continue to impact CBD’s, retailers in particular, however that doesn’t replace the experience of visiting a store to browse and view items, nor does it replace the strong desire to support local businesses within local communities.

“I still see CBD’s offering more boutique retail options, alongside eateries, services, health & beauty; they will all still have their place in the future,” she says.


Napier Business Association general manager Pip Thompson has the same sentiments and a vision for a CBD that is more accessible as well as offering more inner CBD living. Pre COVID19 Napier was the CBD of choice for many locals, especially with a wider mix of national retailers, but with tourism being a major casualty of lockdowns, more building lease signs went up. Unperturbed Pip and Napier City Council are looking at the many positives including the welcomed return of cruise ships and major events.

“We can expect CBD offerings to evolve and adapt to meet the changing needs and preferences of consumers. “For example, keeping our variety relevant, ensuring businesses are well supported so that they stay in the CBD. More indoor/outdoor dining, as well as more experiences and experiential shopping.”

“A CBD that is accessible to everyone, no matter where you live and work and we would love to see more permanent living options such as residential spaces and co-living arrangements, and serviced apartments, allowing people to live and work in close proximity to the CBD.” Pip says.

Havelock North Business Association lead Emma McRobbie says the village CBD experience is ever-evolving and sees an opportunity to enhance further using technology and encouraging innovation. “The significance of the physical CBD remains, offering unique experiences and fostering a sense of community. “By integrating technology, encouraging innovation, and adapting to changing consumer preferences, there is an opportunity to create CBD’s that becomes an immersive hub of activity thus drawing people in.

“Exploring concepts such as more permanent living arrangements, community spaces, and engaging events can help ensure that the CBD remains a vibrant and essential part of people’s lives,” Emma says. All three associations are funded by a targeted rate or levy which is administered by councils. Napier also receives some top up funding while Havelock and Hastings pitch for funding support for promotions and events. They also advocate for their members on issues such as parking and streetscape enhancements.

For Pip, the area that needs most of an overhaul is Ocean Boulevard Mall, which she says is completely vacant and is a high value, high traffic area that negatively impacts on vibrancy in the CBD. Emma in Havelock would like to see a major overhaul of the central public toilets and CBD rubbish bins.

“Ensuring clean and accessible public facilities is crucial to providing a positive experience for both residents and visitors. By investing in the improvement and modernisation of these amenities, we can enhance the overall appeal and functionality of our CBD, creating a welcoming and convenient environment for all.

In Hastings, Emma Sey would like to see landlords enhance their historical buildings in the western blocks of Heretaunga Street, while also saying it’s time for a focus on Stortford Lodge – an area that sits outside of the associations mandate.

“The west-end of Heretaunga Street has some beautiful historical buildings that do need landlord attention which would benefit the entire CBD and the landlords themselves as work put it would give them a broader range of tenant options. While outside of our associations zone, Stortford Lodge coming into the main CBD is an area that requires some attention and beautification.

As the region recovers from Cyclone Gabrielle and an expected tightening of discretionary spending the associations are looking to roll out promotional campaigns to keep foot traffic and consumer spending up. Hastings will continue to roll out its ‘Discover Hastings’ campaign to encourage both locals and visitors into the CBD.

“We’ll also be working closely with partners to help promote the many key events on offer over the next few months including the ongoing Hastings 150th celebrations, Blossom Festival, HB Arts Festival and more.”

Napier has already held a successful campaign to get more people into the CBD following the cyclone as well as a series of events such as themed business breakfasts and street food events. “We launched ‘We Are Open’, which was designed to promote our city’s recovery post-Cyclone Gabrielle using our membership and the community.”

Havelock North has also finished a ‘support local’ campaign and will launch a hospitality promotion to showcase the diverse culinary experiences available.

“Looking ahead, we intend to launch a domestic tourism campaign, inviting visitors to explore and enjoy our vibrant CBD.

“Lastly, as the year draws to a close, we plan to implement a ‘Gift Local’ promotion that will encourage residents to support local businesses during the holiday season. As CBD’s are more activated both during the day and evening, it is hoped that some of the safety issues are overcome, something all three CBD advocates hope for.

Other challenges they face include high cost of living impacting consumer spend, seven-day staffing and streetscape maintenance.

“As Havelock North continues to grow, the need for more car parking spaces becomes increasingly apparent. Addressing these infrastructure concerns is crucial to enhance the overall accessibility and functionality of the CBD, providing a more pleasant experience for residents and visitors alike.”

Our CBD’s are in good heart, with strong commercial tenants as well as retail and hospitality offerings.