An interesting little development that has some implications for the CRL. Stuff Reports:
AMP NZ Office is spending $90 million buying a downtown Auckland shopping centre from Westfield which it believes is the ”best site in town” for future development.
The NZX-listed company, which owns more than $1 billion of grade A office space in Auckland and Wellington, has reached an agreement to buy the Westfield Downtown Shopping Centre on Auckland’s waterfront.
Currently a four level, 14,000 square metre shopping centre, the site, approximately 6500 square metres, has an existing resource consent for a 71,000 square metre mixed-use office and retail development.
Chief executive Scott Pritchard said the site would not likely be developed for years but gave the company ample opportunity.
”This site… [gives] us the ability to acquire something that has long term development potential but provides us with a holding return,” Pritchard said.
”We get to choose when is the most optimal time to develop it which in the land of developing buildings, time is often the one thing that can hurt you.”
If the Auckland Council is able to proceed with its plans to build a rail loop it will need to use the site to develop it, and Pritchard said that factor was likely to determine future development plans.
“We support Auckland Council’s call in the city centre masterplan for this precinct to showcase Auckland, and we are keen for this site, along with our adjacent buildings, to contribute to that vision.”
There was currently ”no demand” for a new office tower in downtown Auckland but the company had options for future development.
”We don’t think there will be for some time because a lot of the major occupiers in the market have got reasonably long term leases so this is very much a long term opportunity for us and ensure that when demand is there we have what we think is probably the best site in town to try to meet that demand.”
In the short term, the company had the opportunity to improve links with other buildings it owned adjoining Westfield, PwC Tower, Zurich House and AMP Centre.
I think this is great news. The downtown mall has always felt at odds with Westfield’s typical way of doing business which tends to be inwards focused suburban malls that all feel the same and that are surrounded by oceans of car parking. They like to treat pedestrians and any other transport mode like aliens from another planet with some kind of deadly disease. A classic example of which is in Henderson where pedestrians coming from the train station and bus station across the road face the ass end of the mall with a priority given to a loading zone and a disgusting walk around the edge of the car park.
Back to the downtown mall, it is pretty easy to see why AMP think it is the best site in the city. It is close to the waterfront and is easily big enough to put two large towers on. It is also has probably the best transport links in the city being across the road from both the ferry terminal and Britomart. Further they even know that they can get the council to pay for demolition of the existing buildings which will need to happen for CRL. I suspect a large part of their decision to buy this site is also that they believe in the impacts the CRL will have which will see a lot more people be able to get into town without having to drive. It will be really interesting to see what plans they eventually come up with but I for one am really happy with this news.
Adendum: A couple of views of the unlovely thing from the recently refurbished tower on the southeastern corner of the site showing the scale of the footprint [PR]: