In the last decade we have seen some massive improvements to our PT system, especially on the rail network with things like the duplication of the western line. Thankfully we have also seen a shift in thinking and it has been realised that we need more than just functional improvements and that well designed infrastructure is also important in attracting people to use PT. Most stations have now been upgraded nicely and common design (although I’m sure we would all like to see more shelter) and at a few locations we have gone further and created some really impressive stations. Britomart was the first but we can now add New Lynn and Newmarket to that list.
When it comes to Newmarket station though, one sore point since it opened has been station square which has a number of issues, one of which is below.
A report to the Waitamata local board (in the same agenda as the Fort St report) looks at what the issues are and what some solutions are to fix them up. Here is what some of the report had to say:
Newmarket Station Square was purchased to provide a space that could function as a mixture of:
- a transition and waiting space for rail passengers;
- a civic square for community activities and events;
- a public open space area for respite from the busyness of the commercial streets;
- a pleasant outlook and “backyard” for local high rise residents, while retaining its public use, look and feel.
However, Station Square has faced challenges in becoming what was envisaged following its opening early in 2010 and has a number of fundamental design issues. The space is isolated from surrounding streets with little visible reference to the adjacent shopping centre. There exists a conflict of public/private interests created by private development forming the built edge to Station Square. The design is barren, uninviting and uninteresting, and there are severe restrictions on the amount and positioning of any fixed elements as Station Square sits over a car park roof.
Newmarket is a very busy station with thousands of students and commuters waiting in and walking through Station Square at certain times during the working week. Station Square’s visitors are mainly transient, making their way to or from a train or apartment. The most visible exception to this is the use of Station Square by young people on weekday afternoons as a gathering space, while they wait for trains after school finishes.
Given its location behind Broadway and fronting the Newmarket rail station, Station Square is a key open space for Newmarket. As a business centre, Newmarket continues to grow rapidly, outstripping other retail centres and operating as a strong retail and shopping magnet. The population of Newmarket town centre is growing rapidly, thanks to the construction of new apartment buildings, of which the L&Y development adjoining Station Square is one example.
This significant growth in population will continue to place pressure on the relatively small amount of open space available within walking distance of the Newmarket town centre. Major projected business growth in Newmarket will continue to attract more shoppers and workers into the town centre, who want open spaces and parks for lunch and relaxation, putting even more pressure on the available open space.
Modelling suggests that 3000 commuters will alight at Newmarket during the morning peak by 2016, with 800 of these exiting the station at one time in the busiest 10-minute period. It is estimated that 50-80% of commuters exiting the rail station will do so via the link out to Broadway. The majority of buses travel along Broadway and the town centre is most easily accessed by this link, hence most transfers are and will continue to be via the Broadway walkway.
And here are some of the recommendations to improve the square, the most costly of which is the first one but it is perhaps the most important (I’m not going to put the all of the recommendations up simply due to the size of some of them.
1. Visibility and legibility
1.1. Improve access and signage
There are two designated pedestrian links giving access to Station Square in addition to the main concourse into the upper level of the railway station, which provides a direct and secure covered access from Remuera Road into the station. These are illegible entries with very poor amenity on both the Remuera Road and Broadway entry points. Visitors from Broadway will walk past the backs of buildings, service alleyways razor wire and poorly lit dog-legs before arriving at Station Square.
However, this walkway will be in use until the widening and development of the access. Auckland Council approved funding by committee of $700,000 in 2011 towards the necessary relocation of the existing toilets and to redevelop shops 29 and 30, which are retained in council ownership. Negotiations have been completed with the owner of the property on Broadway but still awaiting legal confirmation.
Meanwhile, better signage is needed to signal the access ways to Station Square and then on to the station. The Newmarket Business Association has some suggestions for this. The upgrade of lighting along the walkways is also recommended.
Options for improvement:
- Develop the access way to Station Square from Broadway as soon as the deal is completed between Council and the owner.
- Improve entry signage to Station Square. Suggestions have been made to the Local Board by the Newmarket Business Association to install signage.
- Upgrade lighting along access ways including catenary lighting.
1.2. Improve sightlines and surveillance
There are no clear lines of sight between Station Square and outside streets as all accesses are dog-legged, contributing to the impression of isolation.
The balconies of the surrounding apartments that overlook Station Square on three sides, together with the few tenanted shops on the ground floor, provide intermittent passive surveillance. However, the solid concrete canopy over the shops denies any real connection between the residents and people in Station Square.
The railway station has security cameras that are monitored at Britomart Transport Centre by Auckland Transport. The CCTV coverage only includes a small area outside the station at the bottom of the steps into the square. There are no security cameras in the general square vicinity. The few bench seats in the corner are insufficient to provide ongoing natural surveillance and encourage the necessary activity to relieve the space of its barren emptiness.
Suggestions for improvements
- Design of the new Broadway exit creates a direct line of sight into Station Square from Broadway
- Ambassadors for Station Square and to develop and support positive relationships between retailers, residents and visitors, paid for by Council.
- CCTV installed to cover the Remuera Road and Broadway exits and the open area of Station Square
2. Activate the square
2.1. Work with local business association to bring in appropriate retail activities
Suggestions for improvement:
- Work with the Newmarket Business Association to encourage retail development that will provide activity and colour on the reserve edge and enliven the space.
- Work with businesses to design a market that works within the weight limits
Suggestions for improvement:
- Make Station Square into an arts area
- Programme activities in Station Square that target youth
- Bring in more soft landscaping as part of Station Square
3. Amenity and design improvements
Green Station Square and create seating spaces
There is a seating area in the southwestern corner close to the shops but there is no other amenity to encourage apartment residents or the public to use Station Square for recreation.
Station Square is a designated open space and the potential exists for developing an ‘oasis’ in the town centre for the recreation and relaxation of visitors and workers. Station Square sits over an underground carpark, leading to severe restrictions on the amount and positioning of any fixed elements, and any greening of the space would require planter boxes.
Any redevelopment of Station Square must investigate options to solve the ‘fundamental’ problems above and in the safety assessment, rather than providing simply a ‘paint and paper’ of the existing space. While the options outlined in this report will provide some quick, relatively inexpensive ‘fixes’ to the square’s design itself, they will not in themselves solve the social problems currently plaguing the space. It must also be noted that a structural engineer needs to be engaged prior to any development of these solutions, as the location and strength of structural beams and pillars will dictate the design above, and these were not known at the time of drafting the concept.
Suggestions for improvements:
- Pursuing initiatives for greening the space and adjacent buildings
- Install a high quality, covered hardwood seating area in the middle part of Station Square
- Position steel/timber planters, planted with 400L deciduous trees and low underplanting, with seats on two sides of selected planters
- Consider installing interactive/brightly coloured sculpture
Getting this square and the surrounding commercial businesses working is really important and hope that the council are able to quickly get any outstanding issues resolved because at the moment the place is a bit like a school report card, has lots of potential but doesn’t deliver.