Published 28 July 2006
Amid all the new rules on where you can build apartments, how big you can make them and what sort of outlook they must have, members of Auckland City Council’s urban design panel were taken aback yesterday by an Onehunga proposal which would rise 5 floors above ground and not have a lift.
They kept coming back to the question, while acknowledging that it was allowed under the district plan.
There were 3 fundamental questions asked, and another couple unspoken:
Why would the district plan allow this, after so much consideration of apartment development?
An unspoken question â€“ why would you want to build such a block?
How could it beat the disabled access code, albeit the architect said the units’ accessways would be considered to be private, when those accessways gave access to 4 units on each floor?
What, if you lived on the top floor, would you do about access if you became disabled?
And â€“ another unspoken criticism â€“ if as a prospective buyer you thought about that possibility, why would you buy?
The development proposal is for 58 Galway St, Onehunga, where Winning Investments Ltd (Zhang Hong Wu & Zhong Lin, Torbay) has applied to demolish a bungalow sitting on a 607mÂ² section and replace it with the apartment building â€“ 86mÂ² of offices on the ground floor, 16 2-bedroom apartments at 4/floor, 21 basement parking spaces on a split-level layout.
Winning Investments is the company which has taken over the project to build a 15-storey apartment building on the site of the former Fitzroy Hotel at 75 Wakefield St in the cbd fringe university precinct from a sister company, Golden City Developments Ltd.
Golden City is fighting liquidation proceedings brought by Inland Revenue, getting an adjournment in the High Court yesterday until Thursday 31 August to allow a director to file a statement of financial position.
The Onehunga development proposal is for a site now zoned for mixed use, in an area where development has been intensifying. Across the back fence are 2 rows of 2-storey townhouses, some of which would be directly overlooked from the Winning building.
On the south side, the property has commercial neighbours and the building has been designed (Aaron Trembath, ADC Architects) to show a mostly blank wall to that side. All units will be reached by “breezeways” â€“ corridors behind those blank walls on the south side â€“ allowing for a north-facing outlook.
One unit will have 58mÂ² and the rest 65mÂ², all with decks or balconies. The proposal has been designed to use the maximum 2:1 gross floor area of 1214mÂ² (which excludes balconies, breezeways & parking areas) and extends to the full 15m height limit.
Mr Trembath said Winning had been discussing leasing the units to Housing NZ Corp, which he said didn’t want a lift in the building. He said the block had been designed to match the neighbourhood’s old buildings and he’d gone for a horizontal weatherboard look for part of the exterior.
Mr Trembath said because the building was classified as a private residential development it didn’t have to comply with the disabled access code: “It’s not like a hotel, where the public could come in, which would kick in the disabled code.”
Design panel member Gordon Moller was concerned with what might happen if a similar development went up next door, also a mixed-use site: “Is there any other way you could design this and the sense of amenity be retained?”
Mr Trembath said there would still be a 4.5m setback from the neighbouring site.
Panel chairman John Hunt said the 15m height limit almost implied the site was intended for development larger than the existing sections, but Winning hasn’t aggregated sites.
Panellist Martin Lowery said the rulemakers in writing the rules for mixed-use zone were predicting internal movement but ADC had externalised access: “It’s almost manipulation of the rules.”
He asked reporting planner Bryce Powell: “Does the council want to see developments like this on sites like this in Onehunga?” Said Mr Powell: “I suppose, given the zoning, yes.”
Mr Powell said council planners hadn’t done any monitoring yet of development under the new mixed-use zone rules.
Mr Moller acknowledged that “I can’t really fault it” in terms of the district plan, and said “the aspect of those units from day 1 is going to be pleasing”. What he questioned was the rules the council had written: “Did council get it right? We’re just struggling with why you can do this. Did the council forget something?”
He regarded the building as “gallery-access flats”, adding: “There are some really bad examples of this up Nelson Stâ€¦.. It just conjures up the tenement house look.”
Mr Lowery, still concerned at the absence of a lift, said: “If I break my ankle and live on the fourth floor, I go and live with mum â€˜til it’s better â€“ is that right?”
Said Mr Trembath: “Yes.”
The panel makes recommendations to developers, which are also considered when resource consent applications are made.
The inability to require a lift above 3 storeys, as is required in some Australian states â€“ resulting in the 3-floor walkup as a common development â€“ is a notable omission from New Zealand building rules.
Attribution: Panel hearing, story written by Bob Dey for this website.