Tauranga businesses are hoping new leadership in the city will help revitalise the CBD, which has been hit hard by lockdowns and a lack of cruise ships.
Over the last five years, many have shut up shop or relocated as shoppers avoided the CBD in favour of heading to nearby malls.
A now-revoked begging ban was one of the more controversial moves made to make the city centre more welcoming to visitors.
When RNZ visited the CBD around lunch time on a week day last week, there was modest hustle and bustle at cafes and shops.
But there were also a number of vacant premises decked out with multiple 'for lease' signs. Some signs directed shoppers to new stores at two of the malls in the area, Bayfair or Tauranga Crossing.
Margaret Cowey-Roger ran The Collection, an arts and crafts gift shop nestled in Picadilly Arcade.
She says people came to the city centre to work, but not for a shopping trip because it's hard to find a park.
"If you just want to pop in for an hour or two, get something and catch up with whatever you need to do - it's very hard to do that."
Cowey-Roger says retailers are also feeling the lack of international tourists arriving on cruise ships.
Meanwhile, Hammon Diamond Jeweller has been located in the central city for the past 35 years.
Owner Julie Hammon says the last few years have been a struggle, but her customers have been loyal.
Hammon believes business will improve as life returned to normal after Covid.
"It looks a lot worse than what it actually is at the moment. We've found that customers have been very supportive and loyal and keen to support the CBD," she says.
"We are enjoying good business as a result of that despite the appearances of the CBD, which of course is pretty ghastly."
She says there are a number of factors that have contributed to the city centre's decline, including banks and other essential services moving out of the CBD.
"There are many, many factors that have culminated in this perfect storm and we've got this eyesore of a CBD. But [it's] changing I hope."
Many in the city hoped that changing force would be the team of four commissioners who took over the failing city council earlier this year.
Commission chairwoman Anne Tolley told business leaders at a hui last week she's astonished at the state of the CBD.
"I took a walk up the road and I've never seen anything quite like it for a city of 150,000 people. I understand there is a stack of plans of what to do with the CBD and the foreshore - a lot of hui, but not a lot of do-ey."
Business association Mainstreet Tauranga chairperson Brian Berry saw a brighter future for the CBD with less uncertainty caused by the pandemic.
He believed more people would be out and about shopping as the vaccine was rolled out.
"But also businesses were prepared to commit to new leases. We've had a bit of an influx in the last few months of small office tenants who were coming into the CBD."
Berry says the Farmers development - a $130 million building that includes retail space and residential apartments - were among the projects underway and companies were encouraging staff to work in the office rather than from home.
The organisation was looking to liven up the city through its Activate Vacant Spaces programme which filled empty sites with pop-up art installations, social enterprise shops and laneway murals in partnership with the council.
Mainstreet Tauranga records showed about 75 per cent of the CBD's 699 spaces are occupied.