Pronouncements on Auckland by Unitec’s Dushko Bogunovich’s are consistently curious to say the least, not many urban designers seem so anti urbanist. Generally they are best puzzled over then ignored, but his latest effort, dutifully reported by Anne Gibson in the Herald, deserves a brief response. The baffling outburst is here. Basically he is trying to claim that by repurposing an office block into apartments in Vincent St nothing is being gained. Because there won’t, he argues, be a net gain of humans in the inner city. Here is his math:
“Does he not realise that the conversion leaves the physical density the same as before and keeps roughly the same number of bodies in the CBD as before, only the bodies were there eight hours during day?
Where to start? Well there clearly will be an increase in residents in the inner city through this move, and they may or may not also all work in in the CBD, this can’t be known, although it is not a long stretch to assume that some or even most will, as it would be probably be a little odd to decide to live right in town but commute to, say, Takanini. Odd but not impossible, and just fine if that’s what occurs. This is of no consequence. What really matters is that a whole block of commercial space will be withdrawn from that market and because of this will help to encourage demand for new construction elsewhere in town. And at the same time a bunch of new grocery-buying, theatre-going, who-knows-what doing people will be moving in. Now as we are told in the original article that BECA, the current tenants of this block, are moving up the road to the old ARC building and not out to the suburbs, we can safely conclude that this will indeed increase net amount of ‘bodies’ in the city.
Beca staff will soon leave the block which is still their international headquarters even though only a handful of staff remain, after divisions gradually shifted to the former Auckland Regional Council headquarters on Pitt St.
So the complete reverse of Bogunovich’s next claim:
“Now they will be there eight hours at night. And that this is yet another sign significant businesses are decentralising rather than compacting in the city?”
This development is clearly putting a small squeeze on the availability of commercial space in the CBD, removing an older lower value block from the market and giving it a new use. Bringing construction and new residents into town which will support new and existing businesses there. Put it this way: If every current office block in the CBD was converted to apartments then demand for new office space would clearly grow, stimulating construction as well as increasing the economic life of the CBD as the needs and desires of these new residents are met.
So of course this is an encouraging move and exactly the kind of thing the Council wants to see. Churn in existing buildings is a sign of economic activity and dynamism in a market. And this sort of repurposing is exactly what we’ed expect to see as a start of vitality returning to the CBD residential market. Is this what so angers the anti-intensivist Bogunovich? Roger Blakeley in the earlier Anne Gibson article here:
“This is music to our ears as we look to quality residential development in the city centre and other centres as part of the quality compact city in the Auckland Plan.”
Quite. But also this but also from the developer:
“Three Malaysian and Singaporean investors have bought apartments.
“They are very impressed with the growth in Auckland City amenities, for example the Auckland Art Gallery, Wynyard Quarter, Britomart and the strategic plan for Auckland City.”
Vincent St is a great location for apartments, so handy to all those amenities. They could also have mentioned just how close these new apartments will be to not only the new Aotea station but especially to the K’rd one on the City Rail Link…. especially useful for when these new city residents wish to visit the rest of the isthmus, including Takanini.