I’ve discussed the City Centre Master Plan a few times on this blog previously, as it’s a pretty exciting document which seeks to transform Auckland’s City Centre from the car dominated place it is now to a truly world-class downtown, dominated by people rather than vehicles. An article in today’s NZ Herald provides a bit more information on what will be in the plan, which goes out for public consultation at the same time as the draft Auckland Plan: on September 20th.
A copy of the draft Central City Plan, marked “not to be distributed”, includes plans for temporary road closures of Queen St, then at lunchtimes within three years, followed by a staged rollout of a “shared space” where drivers have to thread their way around pedestrians.
An earlier proposal to close parts of Queen St to traffic has been abandoned because it “might be an unnecessary and overly expensive step”.
I’ve come around to also believing that a shared space might work best for Queen Street, at least in the shorter term. The article continues:
Projects that could occur over the next three years include the first steps to remove vehicles from Quay St and turn it into a waterfront boulevard, revamping Queen Elizabeth Square outside Britomart and building a cruise ship terminal on Queens Wharf.
A bit further out, there are proposals to turn the multi-lane, one-way motorway feeders of Hobson and Nelson St into “welcoming” two-way, tree-lined avenues, restore the St James Theatre and redevelop the downtown carpark as a commercial building.
The draft masterplan places a strong emphasis on making the city more pedestrian-friendly and having fewer cars, although there has been strong opposition from many businesses and property owners who fear the focus on pedestrians over other transport modes would have severe economic consequences.
One idea is to turn the abandoned Nelson St motorway off-ramp into a park connected to a new walkway-cycleway, much like New York’s High Line – a park built on abandoned railway lines above the streets of Manhattan.
Another radical and expensive idea is a land bridge over parts of Stanley St with the possibility of tennis and basketball courts, five-a-side pitches and a swimming pool to improve the connection between the city and Auckland Domain.
There are some really great ideas in there. The Hobson and Nelson street plan is remarkably similar to what I’ve been talking about for a while now, while the downtown carpark redevelopment is exciting too – particularly as it involves demolishing the Lower Hobson street viaduct: a horrible urban blight.
The final details of the City Centre Master Plan will be discussed at the Wednesday meeting of the Auckland Council Future Vision Committee. Looking through the agenda to that meeting reveals further detail of what will be in the Plan. Here’s a brief summary: It’s easy to come up with a million good ideas about how to transform Auckland’s city centre into the kind of place that the City Centre Master Plan envisages. And to an extent, the plan does have “a lot of good (and expensive) ideas”. But also, quite crucially, a number of ‘key interventions’ are also highlighted – some of which are pretty quick and cheap to implement.
Eight key initiatives are proposed by the Master Plan:
- Uniting the waterfront and the city centre – The north-south stitch
- Connecting the western edge of the city to the centre ‐ The East‐west Stitch
- Queen Street Valley CBD and retail district ‐ The Engine Room
- Nurturing an innovation and learning cradle
- New public transport stations and urban redevelopment opportunities at K Road, Newton and Aotea Quarter – Growth around the City Rail Link
- Connecting Victoria Park, Albert Park and the Domain as part of a blue – green park network The Green Link
- Connecting the city and the fringe – City to the villages
- Revitalising the waterfront water city
There are some great ideas proposed, like a linear park along a greatly narrowed Victoria Street, closing off Queen Street more often for events, better pedestrian connections across Grafton Gully, the aforementioned two-waying of Hobson & Nelson streets as well as turning Quay Street into a ‘boulevard’ within the next few years.