Another day and another story about the City Rail Link notice of requirement hearings from the Herald. This focus of this article is the heritage buildings on the corner of Albert St and Victoria St.
Auckland Transport consultants are divided over whether a block of inner-city heritage buildings more than 140 years old will survive excavations for the city’s underground railway.
Heritage consultant Bruce Petry told planning commissioners yesterday at a route designation hearing for the 3.4km project from Britomart to Mt Eden that he supported the “adaptive reuse” of the Martha’s Corner buildings at the intersection of Albert and Victoria Sts, which include nine small shops and restaurants.
“It’s a challenge, but I am pretty sure we can get a realistic solution for that site,” he said.
The transport organisation supports a proposed condition of a designation that an appropriate level of reuse of the buildings, which will be at an entrance to the $2.86 billion project’s largest underground station, could include retaining their facades on all street frontages.
Fellow consultant John Fellows, who is advising Auckland Transport on the design of the future Aotea Station below the full block of Albert St between Victoria and Wellesley Sts, has cast doubt at the hearing on chances of saving even the facades.
“If the current concept design is implemented it is unlikely that the retention of facades, interior fabric and interior floor of these buildings with a view to adaptive reuse will be possible,” he said in earlier written evidence.
If your not sure exactly what buildings they are referring to, they are these ones.
And here is the designation that Auckland Transport are seeking for the project
It is this part of the article which is interesting
Mr Petry acknowledged that Auckland Transport was proposing the potential demolition of Martha’s Corner “as a worst-case scenario”.
“From my investigations, and taking into account its values, I consider demolition of these buildings is not an unacceptable outcome from a heritage perspective, if there is no other realistic option.”
Now I’ll make it clear, I’m not a fan of keeping stuff just because it is old but I do wonder how much other options have really been considered. In particular I think there is an option that should be considered on the diagonally opposite corner.
In the City Centre Masterplan (CCMP) that was adopted last year, one of the key projects was to create a Green Link connecting up the Domain, Albert Park, Victoria Park and the Waterfront. Through the core of the CBD that would be in the form of linear park along Victoria St. Here is what the CCMP has to say about it:
Victoria Street Linear Park will become the city centre’s urban green link, allowing Victoria and Albert parks to merge. It will act as a breakout space for those visiting and working in the Engine Room and has the potential to become one of the postcard images of Auckland, with a wave of green vegetation down Victoria St from Albert Park.
A linear park on Victoria St will require fewer lanes for vehicles, wider footpaths, more green amenity and slower traffic movement. This will deliver a sequence of attractive, safe and engaging spaces or rooms that strongly integrate with the surrounding built form and land uses, and celebrate the public life of the city centre. The street’s traffic function can be maintained for the most part with a reduced number of buses continuing to operate along its length, and an improved cycling environment
And here is an artist’s impression of what it could look like.
But what does all of this have to do with the CRL? Well that much wider pedestrian area that is created by the linear park could be the perfect location to put a station entrance. Hell perhaps it might allow two entrances, one of the western side of Albert St and one on the Eastern Side. Combine that with the fact Victoria St is expected to be narrowed down and the CCMP also suggests that every major intersection along the route should have Barnes dance crossings and combined it would be very easy to get from either entrance across Victoria St to get to the areas north of the station. An addition benefit is the two entrances should also help to spread the load of passengers out.
Further to this it avoids Auckland Transport getting into fights with the noisy heritage groups and it means that there is less land that Auckland Transport need to purchase, slightly reducing the overall costs of the project. Lastly it also provides some impetus to get the linear park in place so it can actually become a reality rather than just a nice idea and a pretty drawing.