Published: 11 April 2005
2 Auckland City Council committees endorsed & approved the council’s Aotea Quarter plan last week, but I’m sceptical about its likelihood of success.
Sceptical â€“ but a good idea, all the same. I think:
it will take more support than Aucklanders are inclined to give
this area, containing The Edge and SkyCity’s casino, hotels, convention centre & SkyCity Metro, will develop as a premium entertainment neighbourhood
but it will also be in conflict with attempts to grow an arts district at Britomart
Karangahape Rd is a more natural area for art house-type venues and young people’s entertainment, though the closing of its theatres says there are limits
Proximity to the education quarter hasn’t developed Aotea naturally into an artistic district â€“ unlike Wellington & Dunedin, for example, Auckland is devoid of a central cultural intensity.
There is plenty of space around the Aotea Quarter to develop a very different, intensive & lively precinct, but examples of that kind of atmosphere tend to come from rundown parts of town holding out against the more profitable temptation of redevelopment.
On the one hand the plan promotes growth of a performing arts & convention quarter, and on the other it promotes the quarter as a venue for the less affluent side of the arts world. It talks of a bus station on Mayoral Drive, just off Wellesley St, a possible convention centre back of the Bledisloe Building (the council now owns the Griffiths Holdings building), upgrading of Aotea Square and improving the relationship between the square and SkyCity Metro.
The plan acknowledges the council’s dominance, owning more than half the land, having its headquarters building there plus office space in the Bledisloe Building, and owning 3 of the events venues â€“ the Aotea Centre, Civic Centre & Town Hall.
It’s conceivable that both upmarket & downmarket artistic activity can be conducted in the quarter, a convention centre could be built to operate in concert with SkyCity’s new one and more space for council staff could be built.
None of that makes a community of interest, but it does make for a precinct notable for its diversity, and that equates to a bunch of city streets without any linking characteristics â€“ hardly a quarter or precinct.
There’s probably been far more call for spaces for artistic expression along Karangahape Rd and in that neighbourhood over the years than there ever was in this neighbourhood, even when Phil Warren had his Ace of Clubs there and His Majesty’s Theatre was a few doors down Queen St.
K Rd hasn’t had the character concreted out of it to the degree Downtown & Midtown have and would make a far more natural art & performing arts district, to my mind. Britomart’s redevelopers also want to encourage artistic endeavour into their complex, giving character to a block which will contain trendy professional offices, some new office, residential & hotel developments and a mixture of new & old quarters for retailers.
The Aotea Quarter has been given a precinct name because the rest of Auckland’s central area was covered in various precinct colours and you couldn’t leave a blank space. Well, 2 blank spaces â€“ the Nelson (now Victoria) Quarter also has no defining character, and probably won’t, but that’s a separate story.
Nevertheless, there is plenty of room around Aotea for alteration â€“ behind the Classic & Sunday School buildings on Queen St, around the Civic Building, on the parking lot behind Bledisloe.
11 April 2005: Aotea Quarter plan approved
27 February 2005: Khartoum Pl upgrade designs wanted
11 December 2004: $4.5 million Lorne St revamp approved
2 July 2004: Aotea Quarter maps
1 July 2004: Aotea Quarter cultural precinct plan endorsed
1 July 2004: Plans to revamp Lorne Street area out for comment
Council website: Auckland‘s cbd into the future