As the demolition crew tidies up the site of the former city council administration building, plans are emerging for the multi-faceted business venture that will occupy the site while its ultimate fate is decided.
For the next 18 months to two years, Rachelle and Chris Duffy will be operating the site under the ‘Our Place' banner.
Our Place is a container shopping precinct offering a variety of opportunities to a range of businesses.
The couple told city retailers at the Mainstreet Downtown Tauranga AGM on Wednesday night that the space will support open-air workshops like yoga and Tai Chi. In addition, a community garden is planned, and a kitchen for food preparation is part of the project.
“It is definitely going to be a collaborative space for full-time businesses as well as entrepreneurs, and people who are wanting to be creative by doing workshops or pop-up sales shops,” says Rachelle.
“I think there's going to be quite a lot of different levels of investment from whoever is going to be part of it. It's one of those places that I think there will be a lot of different things happening.”
The former administration block is being tidied up ready for the new project. Photo: Andrew Campbell.
The community garden is being organised by Good Neighbours. Some plots may be available to people who want an urban plot in the city, but the majority is going to be community focused.
They are hoping to be able to grow a mini orchard, but they are also considering the gardens for use by vendors.
“They might say to us ‘We are just going to be working our menus around the seasonal fruits and veges that we can get and I'm going to do a plot here that has x, y, z in it, for whatever I'm cooking,” says Rachelle.
The vegetation will also help tone down the concrete and steel.
The greenery is going to be all over, some on the top level some on the floor, but mobile and on castors so they can be wheeled around for the sun or so a space can be cleared when required.
Rachelle is reluctant to forecast about numbers that will be involved in Our Place on a daily basis, but they are wanting people to support it in droves.
“Our whole thing is about activating spaces – not necessarily that are in need, but definitely activating spaces that we feel are critical for our community,” says Rachelle.
“We started out in the Mount because you have got to start somewhere, and it was a natural place for us to start.
“For example we started doing Dinner in Domain at Papamoa because we knew that was a growing community and that area needed a hub to call their own instead of being the long lost cousin of Mount Maunganui.
“And the CBD needs us to come and activate that space. We are expecting great numbers because of the diversity of the actual space.”
There is nothing else like Our Place in New Zealand. It's been compared to the container shops in Christchurch, but the Christchurch containers are a quite commercial container retail space, says Rachelle.
Our place has a different dynamic and are looking at opening in January.
“It's not a place where you go once and never go back,” says Rachelle.
Chris and Rachelle are business innovators who launched the artisan market Little Big Markets in Mount Manganui in 2009.
Other community-focused events developed since include Dinner in the Domain, Christmas in the Park, Food Truck Friday, Night Owl Cinema, On The Lawn and The Little Big Vintage Markets.
Little Big Events have collaborated on events in other main centres with the likes of the Hamilton Garden and Arts Festival, Rhythm and Vines, George in the Park, the Auckland Coffee Festival, and Victoria Park Markets.