Auckland Council’s Auckland development committee approved 2 important documents for city centre rejuvenation yesterday – a review of the targets in the city centre masterplan and the Aotea Quarter framework.
When the masterplan was published in 2012 it had 9 intended outcomes & 36 targets. The outcomes have been retained after a review, but the targets have been revised & reduced to 24.
The council’s city centre advisory board supported the changes last year to better gauge progress during the next few years of extensive change, including construction of the city rail link, Precinct Properties Ltd’s replacement of the Downtown shopping centre with the Commercial Bay office & retail development, and a new Mansons TCLM Ltd office development & hotel on the former NZ Herald site on Albert St.
Endorsement of the Aotea Quarter framework brought more jubilation from staff & councillors who see the quarter having the potential to rival the waterfront as a destination. Tim Watts – who was the council’s head of design and has just moved to the same role with a wider brief at Panuku Development Auckland – said this would especially be the case once Aotea Station was built.
He said key points of the original 2007 framework (written by the old Auckland City Council) had been reaffirmed, but in the intervening years the area had changed, with a burgeoning residential quarter on the verges of the core.
The vision is to make it the civic, arts & cultural heart, “a vibrant, resilient & unique place to indulge the senses, express creativity & celebrate our Maori, Pacific & diverse cultures”.
Cllr Cameron Brewer was concerned that the framework as presented didn’t contain any financial details, although some of its costs were in the long-term plan. Mr Watts said “a framework is just the bones on which you attach further detail”, and thought “the next level of detail needs to be worked up through the council development project offices”.
Deputy mayor & committee chair Penny Hulse told Cllr Brewer: “It’s now a 20-year document. Figures are somewhat immaterial at the moment. We are not signing off a capital project list,” and added: “Outcomes are strategic vision, they may be completely undeliverable.”
Discussions continue on civic admin building
The other large feature of the neighbourhood is the council’s former civic administration building on the edge of Aotea Square, abandoned because of asbestos & major repairs required. The council shifted its headquarters up to the former ASB Bank head office at 135 Albert St last year.
Mr Watts said the council’s development team held a briefing yesterday for shortlisted developers.
The overwhelming view in feedback on the building’s future was that retention was preferable, but there wasn’t much discussion around the end use.
Cllr Hulse said the building’s future would be on the agenda at the council finance & performance committee’s next meeting: “The decision sits with us on how much money we want to put in the budget.”
It’s not quite as simple as the fate of one building, though. The council-controlled Regional Facilities Auckland is also looking at better links between its Aotea assets, including improving vehicular access to the Aotea Centre from Mayoral Drive and pedestrian access.
Lee critical, Darby sees opportunities galore
Cllr Mike Lee thought closure of the old civic administration building was bad both financially and in civic terms: “The work is predicated on solving a problem, and the problem is the civic square is not pulling its weight. How did that happen? Was it our decision-making? It was our decision to desert the building – a perfectly functional civic building has been locked up and we’ve gone up the road to a bank building.”
However development committee deputy chair Chris Darby, who’s been heavily involved in the framework process, said the framework was about far more than Aotea Square and the administration building: “It’s about 4 key things – civic & cultural, transport-enabled development, non-stop entertainment and a cultural & sustainable showcase. There are 8500 seats in this quarter (not counting some of the privately operated cinemas). It’s quite phenomenal the resource we’ve got, and we’ve never quite got it together. I see this midtown as becoming as seductive as the waterfront.”
He saw revenue opportunities as well as costs from the civic administration building (a $45 million upgrade & $30 million for redevelopment), from developments such as the pop-up Globe Theatre in a council parking lot beside the Q Theatre, and from changes to the Aotea Centre.
“The Aotea Centre looks like HMNZS Canterbury, looks like it wants to float away. The bones are good inside and it needs to marry up, behind, with neighbours, and greet the square more. Its terraces should be living spaces, not alien green roofs. I think that building should be subject to a design competition – we’re almost half doing that at the civic administration building.
“I think there’s the template here for great things to unfold. I look for outrageously good architecture to flow out of this. This quarter is going to be attracting a lot of Aucklanders in years to come, particularly when rail & light rail flow through it.”
13 August 2015: Propbd on Q Th13Aug15 – 8 apartments sell, council on Eden Park, Aotea Quarter & land for housing
10 August 2015: New Aotea framework plan up for consultation
24 May 2015: Council value capture an integral aim as Aotea Quarter transformed
19 November 2014: Council to consider old HQ’s fate next month
14 April 2014: Council staff want 3 months to prospect for alternative uses of old HQ
19 July 2012: Council confirms it will buy ASB Bank Centre
11 July 2008: Consultation opens on new look for Aotea Square
8 May 2006: Clear South Town Hall options put up, but councillors dither
11 April 2005: Aotea Quarter plan approved
11 April 2005: Success at Aotea Quarter no easy run
1 July 2004: Aotea Quarter cultural precinct plan endorsed
Attribution: Council committee meeting & agenda.