An interesting article appeared prominently in the Herald’s business section this morning. Here’s what part of it said:
Ownership of many properties, including Auckland’s largest inner-city mall, could change as plans for Auckland’s underground rail loop edge closer.
The central city line could pass directly beneath the large multi-level Westfield Downtown on reclaimed land spanning Albert St, Customs St West and Queen Elizabeth II Square.
At the end of last year, Westfield valued the centre at $40.3 million and some property experts now believe negotiations between the council and Westfield could see ownership change.
The low-rise 13,964sq m mall in the waterfront block makes total annual sales of $68.1 million and Westfield has planned to redevelop the building, vastly undersized for the high-rise zoning and valuable location.
Linda Trainer, general manager of Westfield NZ’s shopping centre management, would not say if the company had held discussions with the Auckland Council over selling the property so the rail project could go ahead.
But Westfield was well aware of the rail plans and it had permission to redevelop the site, she said.
The article continues on talking about the the CRL and Westfield’s previous plans but the thing that came to my mind was, why now? Its been known for years that the CRL would have to go through the downtown shopping centre site and from memory Westfields tower plans are what kicked the ARC into gear to really start looking at getting the CRL built.
What we do know is that Auckland Transport is getting ready to lodge the designation which I understand will happen in just a few months time. When that happens we should find out much more detail about what work has been going on behind the scenes to advance the project and that should include information on exactly what properties are going to be needed. Once the designation is granted AT/Council will need to start buying up the properties they need and that is where I think that this article comes in.
I suspect that the Westfield have seeded this story to the Herald for one reason, to help in their negotiations with AT/Council. They know that if they can either increase the value of the site they can demand more cash, alternatively if they can show that their future development of the site is impacted by the CRL then they could get a similar result. At the end of the day I can completely understand this approach and it is what any land owner would do but it is something worth keeping an eye on. I suspect we will start hearing a lot more from affected land owners in the future and there is nothing the Herald will like more than to run stories about people forced out of their homes or businesses due to the CRL.