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City Centre Masterplan Update

Just over a week ago the new Auckland Development Committee held its first meeting. This committee inherits the work of the former Auckland Plan Committee, which largely was taken up by the work on the Unitary Plan. However the cessation of the main body of that work means this committee can now look a wider range of projects. Responsibilities of the committee include the Unitary Plan, Special Housing Areas,  Spatial Plans and City Transformation Projects.

The meeting agenda included a wealth of information with updates of progress on a wide variety of the City Transformation Projects, which cover town centre upgrades, CBD upgrades and legacy greenfield projects like Westgate, Flat Bush and Hobsonville. This post will focus on updates in regard to projects featured in the City Centre Masterplan, as this is the first time we have a comprehensive progress update since the plan was released.

Quay Street Upgrade

As we have highlighted before Quay Street is a real missed opportunity for the city, and having 6 lanes of traffic here is totally over the top.

The Concept Plan should see public consultation in 2014. There was a low quality screenshot included, but it doesn’t really give anything away in regards to the final form of the street.

Quay St

There is some exciting news though in regards to some low-cost place making exercises, and the Albert Street parklet looks like it was the first of these.

Deliverables 2013/14

“early initiative trials of concept including Placeman, bike event, temporary street furniture, park-let and safety upgrades.

The update notes $25 million was set aside in the LTP, mostly for 2016/17.

Upper Queen Street Cycleway & Gateway upgrade.

 Upper Queen St

The Upper Queen Street motorway over bridge is currently a very miserable windswept place. It is also well over-engineered for the traffic volume it carries, with 3 lanes in each direction. Strangely it even has parking on the bridge itself. However it will all change in the is project which is linked to the Grafton Gully Cycleway project. This is programmed for construction in 2015/16 at a cost of  $1.5 million.

Bledisloe Lane Upgrade

Bledisloe Lane is the covered walkway than runs between Wellesley Street and Aotea Square, and helps build on the lane way network as is opposite Elliot Street. Currently is a rather dark and uninviting thoroughfare.

Bledisloe lane

A concept design has been delivered. The construction should start early 2014, and last 6 months. The total cost will be $3.6 million.

Freyberg Place Upgrade

 Freyberg Place

Freyberg Place currently allows cars through at the northern end which is very strange, and negatively affects the whole space. The render shows that car access will totally disappear which is fantastic, as there is no need for cars to short cut through here at all. Will be built 2014 or 2015 at a cost of $2 million.

Upper Khartoum Place

Upper Khartoum 

This is the gateway to Auckland’s fabulous Art Gallery, and is in somewhat of a rundown state. It is currently out to tender, construction should start in 2014. Note that the Women’s Suffrage memorial is being retained as part of this redesign, as this has caused issues with previous upgrade proposals.

O’Connell St Upgrade

O'Connell St

Costed at $4 million, construction should commence in early 2014. Initial designs for this upgrade showed a very unambitious upgrade, with only minor changes. However public feedback meant that a shared space appears to be the outcome.

Victoria St Linear Park

 Victoria St

Victoria Street is a somewhat uninviting streetscape, and the 4 lanes seem unnecessary considering the also wide Wellesley Street is the next block south. The long term plan is to turn it into a Linear Park to link Albert and Victoria Parks which will provide a high-quality East West Link in the mid-cty area, and that is sorely needed.

Again a concept design for was delivered in October. Construction should start in late 2014 or early 2015, and will be delivered in stages out to 2017. First stage will cost $4.7 million, with total cost of $24 million.


Overall is great to see that a number of exciting projects are likely to progress over the next few years, continuing to improve on the massive gains we have seen in the CBD in recent years.

63 comments to City Centre Masterplan Update

  • Myles

    What a disappointment seeing Freyberg Place being changed from a cosy place to sit and eat one’s sandwiches (albeit needing more shade trees) into a Plaza. Have used it for years to eat my lunch. Now being completely ruined by the powers that be.

    • Dunno know what you mean Myles; looks like there’s heaps more sitting options than currently- especially up the incline towards metropolis, great to see steps instead of the bollard strewn road-let through the space. But it would be even better if the paved surface continued without differentiation across the width of High St. Great opportunity to begin the inevitable transformation of High St into the Shared Space it already ought to be.

      And these are all fantastic- they are the dividend from the investments in ways of accessing the City Centre not in cars. In cities it really is as simple as Fewer Cars = Better City.

      Here is city economist Geoff Cooper in this morning’s Herald:

      Auckland is starting to get better fast. At last it may approach its potential.

      • Would be cool of they could shared space the bit of High St alongside the square at the same time, give everyone a taste of what they are missing.

      • MikeG

        Why not do a quick fix by closing the car lane and installing a few more seats now? It’s a well used space now, so a quick fix could mean other projects get a higher priority.

    • Corn

      I think the proposal looks pretty good. Extending the stairs all the way up along the embankment by the fountain is a great idea and will provide a heap more seating and links it to the cafe area under the Metropolis. Currently the square is cramped, with lots of unused spaces and has pretty uncomfortable and awkward seating.
      The big win is really getting rid of that silly road. Should be good.

      • By all means close the road across it, but I might be with Myles on this one. freyberg square is very successful based on the number of people that use it every day. I personally like the sense of enclosure, it’s like an outdoor living room. I fear if they open it up like that it will lose the homely enclosure and go from being a place to stay and enjoy into a place to move through. From the tended it looks more like a crossroads, albeit a pedestrian one, than a spot to linger in.

    • Max

      I like it. Don’t see how this makes the space “less cozy”. It will still be overlooked by high buildings on all sides. I doesn’t suddenly become an open hilltop… In fact, short of the removal of the car lane, I see very little change in the “bones”. Yes, some seating steps are added. Not a problem. Good, in fact – the terrace below the Metropolitan is badly integrated at the moment.

  • Feijoa

    Brilliant, I’m looking forward to all of these improvements.

    What’s next? How about the greenway through AT’s Myers car Park.

    • Luke C

      Myers Park was included in the update too, however there had been publicity about this recently. See this on the Waitemata Local Board page, or page 39 of the agenda.
      Unfortunately the render does not go north of Mayoral Drive, though have heard council is working to undo the leases.

  • Gary Young

    Khartoum Place upgrade seems a bit too full of paving stones and concrete. I think something along the lines of the park-like areas suggested for Victoria Street would be much more inviting.

  • Fred

    Wow this post is the best news in months! Fantastic to actually see some of the projects in the city centre master plan creep closer to reality.

    I have been terrified that plan would just end up sitting on a bookshelf while business as usual continued.

  • Ari

    I’ve never understood these planted median islands. It seems like a total waste of space that could be for pedestrians. Instead it is stuck in the middle of the road. Arguably, if we had a one way system in the CBD, we could have linear parks on every street. But I guess that is too radical.

    • Yes. It is gardening for motoring; by separating traffic you are encouraging much faster driving- implies motorway conditions. You will note that Quay St was mentioned as a persistent speeding street by police this week [which also suggests it's fairly empty]. And it tends to happen where the footpaths have been pushed right back in order to fit ever more driving lanes; Upper Symonds St, Quay St. It’s a traffic engineer’s way to fit some green, but really get as much carriageway as possible into a corridor.

      While pedestrians can look at the trees they get no benefit of their shade nor can they touch them, and critically it further separates each side of the street. People are very much stuck on one side or the other.

      Centre Lane trees are a sign that pedestrians are neither expected much nor valued by the designers.

    • Where are the planted median islands going in?

    • Max

      Touch wood – I guess that the planted medians shown in the low-res screenshots may (among other things) serve to protect a dedicated cycleway from other traffic, and discourage pedestrians from randomly wandering into it. If that is the case, I am all for it (and I am not so negative about them anyway).

  • Myles

    Lower half of Khartoum Place currently nothing more than a van park

    • I love it as it is actually, the lower half. It’s cool, calm and sheltered, peaceful. I was never happy with the old plans to bust it open.

    • Craig

      It is a parking lot most of the time but heres hoping things change with the opening of the new cafe in Khartoum Place. Being Auckland however I have no expectations at all.

    • Corn

      The van invasion is due to the old-new-gallery building being upgraded. Should (hopefully) ease in the next few weeks as it’s close to finished.

      • It does need more enforcement there and it’s not just vans.

        Can’t agree that Khartoum Pl good as it is. The Spanish Steps in Rome would be my model; at the moment it fails to either invite you up the hill to our best building and best park, nor into the buildings on either side. Not wild about the visual above either, and suspect that the unreason about the ceramic illustrations on the current barrier is the problem.

        Yes important event to have celebrated in prominent public art, but I would argue that these tiles are not doing that well with this form and in this location. Either move them [yes it can be done] to somewhere more prominent if they are considered so good, or lets get a new artwork somewhere startling [or indeed back there] to remind us all of the sacrifices and achievements of these women… which would then give us the freedom to fix this urinal wall, and enable a linkage of these two public spaces with procession and delight.

        • Spanish Steps. I don’t mean faux olde worlde but rather broad inviting steps that don’t tell you whether to sit down or to keep walking; but rather invite both. The Freyberg Square plan has this not the Khartoum Pl one. I think it should:

          Can still have very distinct qualities at each level, leafy and shady below and more open above….

          • But Patrick, having sat on the Spanish steps like so many tourists I wonder if you are being a touch sneaky showing all the people sat down facing the camera, but not what they are facing. In the other direction there is a vista of ancient buildings and a warren of old streets and lanes in the foreground and a constant throng of people and activity.

            At Khartoum place you would face a curtain walled office tower with an Esquires In the lobby.

            Must all our public places be through ways designed to draw you through to somewhere else? If this is the form of Freyberg do we have to do it again at Khartoum?

            I am very fond of the proposal above actually, the addition of the extra staircase opens up the sightline to the art gallery, without removing the separation between the upper and lower halves or unpacking the lower ‘room’. Great outcome IMHO but I wouldn’t want to go back to the old proposal of replacing the whole lot with a full width staircase.

          • aa

            I tried sitting on Spanish Steps once, but a Rome cop started yelling at us – no sitting allowed.

    • Chris

      Trades vehicles on Lower Khartoum Place is only a short term issue as the old art gallery building is currently being refurbished.

  • I must say all this makes me very optimistic about Aucklands future. It seems we are finally getting things right, and quite rapidly so. The city centre will be a truly world class urban space soon enough,,and I note a lot of this sort of thing is spreading throughout the region toNew Lynn and Takapuna for example.

    Also simple flow on effects like the fact they were repainting the building along Fort Lane yesterday. Not the main frontage, but tarting up the side facing the lane that would have previously been ignored by the landlord as it was ignored by the people avoiding the lane way.

  • Luke C

    Note with the renders wasn’t obvious which ones were final, and which were preliminary. Some I took from the agenda document itself, where there were decent quality pictures. Others are from the original MasterPlan document, or from the associated website. The agenda itself has some new renders, while others are identical to the Masterplan. So none are necessarily final. Will aim to do a more individual post on each project if we get any more confirmed renders, however this intended to be broad brush overview.

  • Gary Young

    Can I put in a word on behalf of the trades vehicles, seeing as they have been mentioned a few times above. Full disclosure: I am an electrician and have often worked in the central city though now I’m based full time out of town.

    Please remember, everyone, that in a modern city the utilities, both public and private, need constant maintenance, service and repair. In my experience the parking authorities made few concessions to tradespeople to help them provide these essential services. It made working in the CBD much more difficult than it needed to be and sometimes simply not worth the effort.

    If your office switchboard has gone into meltdown or your apartment’s toilet has sprung a leak do you care that the tradie trying to help you out is being harrassed by parking wardens or tow trucks and may have barely enough time to diagnose the problem let alone fix it? Would you cheerfully pay the extra on top of your already steep invoice to cover the regular fines and towage fees?

    Dedicated, hassle-free zones for trades vehicles located around the central city would be greatly appreciated by those of us trying to keep your lights on, your water flowing and your lifts working.

    • Yes Gary that’s true, and word we are hearing is that the trades are finding the shared spaces much better for both deliveries and work access, removing the endless lines of private car storage from the streets works for all.

    • Max

      Agreed. I also think there should be better enforcement of loading zones. There are not the spaces where you park and wait to pick up your partner from the office…

      Identifying who are bona fide trades vehicles could be a bit trickier, though – especially for the kind of jobs Gary mentioned. They might have to be in a place for some hours. How do you distinguish these best from the people who only need 10 minutes to unload and then from the people who might drive a ute, but AREN’T tradies?

    • Yes I agree that tradies do need to access the city centre but one question I have is if the new city centre parking scheme helps with that at all. Just like everyone else, tradies could park anywhere there is on street parking and as there are no time limits nothing to stop them from taking as long as they need and then charging the costs on to the individual/company using their services. That should be included as part of the cost of doing business.

      • Gary Young

        Paid parking but without a time limit is preferable. Often it is not possible to predict in advance how long a job will take and having to stop working to move a vehicle every couple of hours just gets a bit silly when you have to spend eight or nine hours on a site. Customers are not impressed either.

        But the fees have to be logical too. I can recall many years ago working in the Phillips Fox towers in Elliot St. when it cost $26 a day to park in the car park opposite but the fine for overstaying in the loading zone was, in those days, only $12.

        I don’t know if that kind of anomaly has been addressed these days but it’s something that needs to be looked at as an element of the wider scheme.

  • Bbc

    The roads through Britomart are themselves excessively wide and without any pedestrian priority and this appears to have spill over effects as quite large intersections are planned along quay street at these interfaces. Why are they reduced and hence quay street itself simplified and even less need for cars to be there.

  • George

    I’m still not sure why bricks are so expensive. But very excited by all these upgrades.

    • Luke C

      If you watch the contractors work on Federal St at the moment you will see the bricks are the narrow top on a huge thick layer of concrete.
      This will require major service relocation at the same time.

    • SF Lauren

      Looks awesome, I like the indoor trees way up the top. The shape of the main building is a little bland but works.

    • That is a student project: “2013 is the third year we have hosted a team of four 4th year Unitec Architecture students in our office to undertake a complex project in a real world setting. This year the selected site was the entire Downtown block on Auckland’s waterfront, and the ‘real’ Client was the property owner Precinct Properties”

  • SteveC

    upper Queen St is an utter wasteland, something like the bougainvillea pathway on the Brisbane Southbank (with climbing and flowering natives of course) could add a greater sense of procession to the place

    • There is a lot we could learn from Brisbane. Thye have done a great job of their cycling and PT development.

    • Steve N

      The upper Queen Street concept sketch looks nice, but as Luke says, it is a windswept place. Not sure how the trees will cope while they establish themselves, or how they will get deep enough soil for them spread their roots.

      • Max

        The Upper Queen Street Bridge concept will likely have little to do with the reality (which, touch wood, will be released in a few months).

        I was involved in part of the design process as part of the Grafton Gully Cycleway, and they certainly didn’t take the City Centre Masterplan sketch for that bridge as more than one of many starting points when they mocked up the stuff they were looking then (and by now, half a year since I saw those concepts, they probably has long since morphed on into something totally else, so isn’t even worth me teasing you by telling you what they showed us… – lets just say that the two constants were that it will be a much stronger gateway (including verticality) and that there will be much less car space).

        • Any indication the cycleway could be extended along upper Queen To K Rd? That would tie in to the ridge line where it is a flat easy ride to Ponsonby, Grey Lynn, Grafton and Newmarket.

          • bbc

            Unlikely, AT haven’t even bothered to tie in the long completed sections of Grafton Gully to the rest of the roading network let along consider spending money elsewhere. There are many roads that need staff working out how to justify widening them, no time for cyclists.

          • Max

            The next actual cycleway connection after that (as in “proper separated path”) will probably be a link to Nelson Street via Canada Street and the dis-used Nelson Street off-ramp, and then along Nelson Street down to the Waterfront. It is proposed as an AT priority project in the about to be signed-off cycle business plan (though that covers a 5 year period, and they are already in delay on the top 3 priority projects from the last plan, so while the plan is good, I am afraid I can’t really applaud AT on this until they actually DO something…)

          • The last bit of Upper Queen wouldn’t take much, there are seven lanes there so trimming it down to six would allow a good cycleway to be added along one side, cheaply with very little impact.

          • Bryce P

            AT have already declined Local Board requests for cycle lanes along GNR at the Ponsonby end so I can’t see you getting any traction there. The cars, won’t someone think of the cars and the important motorists?

          • Upper Queen St is where the Northwestern Cycleway and the Grafton Gully cycleway meet however, plus it has very low traffic volumes for such a wide road. There would be more need for them there than at the start of GNR.

          • Bryce P

            People in Grey Lynn and Ponsonby don’t cycle?

          • bbc

            AT declined a cycle heading east on GNR where it intersects with Ponsonby Rd because their calculations were that such a cycle lane would delay cars by 30s so the improved safety for people not in cars wasn’t worth considering. This road is insanely wide that that point and parallels the Northwestern Motorway which has been and continues to be incessantly widened at massive cost yet despite this no local road can have any priority returned to anyone else.

            Upper Queen Street quite clearly needs a connection up to K’Rd that’s obvious but AT are dragging their heels with even doing anything to the local roads where the Grafton Gully Cycleway connects e.g. Alten and Graton Rds. So thinking they’re going to be proactive on anything else is basically a pipe dream. So I don’t expect them to even consider narrowing a 7 lane road in the innercity to provide a cycle lane, or to even consider removing some parking to enable that or to even consider turning slip lanes into left turning lanes for cyclists. None of this will happen, not whilst the current crop of engineers run AT.

        • Was wondering yesterday – when the cycleway project is completed, what would be the best way to enter the cycleway from the east towards Uni that did not involve climbing a big hill? As it looks at the moment, going across Grafton bridge to Uni and avoiding the cycleway would appear to be the easiest route. Improving the access from the east may be a good way to double the catchment of the cycleway, even if it did involve another underpass under the motorway or motorway entrance/exits.

  • patrick

    Any sign of Hobson St being upgraded, good to see Victoria St getting started, long overdue

  • bbc

    When you look at the pennys spent to do all of this compared with the hundreds of millions AT throws away on new roads and road widenings you realise how cheap good urban environments cost. Just a shame according to their usual BCR analyses these would all have massively negative BCRs as most involve the removal of car capacity something frowned upon by AT.

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