From craft beer to Che Fu: Hastings’ big city feels in regional Aotearoa
There's a hint of Dunedin to Hastings - a modicum of Melbourne, a smidge of Auckland's Kingsland, a nod to Wellington's Newtown.
Just like those larger cities and neighbourhoods, Hastings' working-class roots are still evident on the sticky dancefloor of the Common Room, a bar and venue attracting Hastings' young and old, or in the families lining up to catch a film at Focal Point, the local movie theatre.
But there's also new polish and poise in Hastings, and that's because the city is amid something of a reinvention. Hastings is stripping back its many layers and revealing its beautiful Art Deco bones, a highly sophisticated food scene, and its position as a remarkably diverse small city boasting boutique breweries, first-class shopping, enticing public and private art collections, elegant eateries and myriad entertainment options.
A walk through the city's eastern side showcases just how exciting this transformation is. Retail and commercial complex Tribune is often the first stop for visitors and locals alike. Spanning almost half a city block, it's been a labour of love for developers Rob and Barb Hansen, who have invested many millions in creating fabulous industrial spaces that, in turn, attract high-end tenants.
Those tenants include founding retail partner Real World, who manufactures and sells small batch skin care and body care products here, Brave Brewery, whose Tigermilk IPA is a local institution and high fashion store Bazaar the Empire among them.
Hairstylist to the stars Tane Tomoana weaves his magic (and fingers) on hair at Morgan Lane, Oh My Goodness fills tummies with gluten-free baking and Kindred Road offers small-run homewares and furniture alongside a café with seating in the sun.
Turn the corner to Heretaunga Street and you'll spot the freshly opened Toitoi Municipal Building – a stunning example of a thoughtfully executed renovation. When the Municipal Building – and the adjacent Hawke's Bay Opera House – closed for earthquake strengthening in 2014, the community felt the loss keenly.
But eight years on, both are back and humming. The Toitoi Opera House is booked solid until the end of 2022 with shows – artists like Che Fu, Delaney Davidson and Bret McKenzie will grace its stage – while the Toitoi Municipal Building has reopened as Hastings' premier destination for eating and drinking.
Inside the precinct, which includes a number of laneways, there's the Long Island Delicatessen, popular for lunch, Craft & Social (a bustling licensed eatery) and exclusive wine bar Cellar 495 (opening soon). Contemporary art gallery Ākina and the Hastings i-SITE visitor centre complete the experience.
And Hastings' changes aren't going unnoticed by New Zealand businesses, either. KiwiBank has already moved 150 of its staff into the CBD, and now CEO of insights company AskYourTeam, Chris O'Reilly, is preparing to headquarter his growing business in yet another refurbished Art Deco building this spring. Hospitality was part of the attraction for O'Reilly.
"It's certainly diversified in Hastings," he says. "Hastings District Council is a forward-thinking local authority that always has economic development at the forefront of its planning. I know the arrival of our team will provide some extra demand as they actively enjoy more of the incredible local craft food, beer and wine that's available."
The Toitoi Municipal Building official opening weekend celebrations take place August 6-7. Entry is free and everyone is welcome. For further information, visit: www.toitoivenues.co.nz/whats-on/municipal-building-grand-opening