Tomorrow is already going to be a fairly big day at council. Councillors will debate the much needed Skypath, the error ridden Annual Plan and of course plenty of discussion about Len Brown. However there is yet another topic on the agenda that I think needs some attention. It relates to Mission Bay footpaths and in a “planets must be oddly aligned” type of situation, it even sees me agreeing with the Orakei Local Board.
At the heart of the matter is the streetscape. The local business association have realised that the footpaths outside of the business areas are not ideal, both in width and finish and want them upgraded. Apparently they first asked for this back in 2007. In terms of width, part of the problem comes from the businesses that use the footpaths for outdoor dining. That helps activate the street and make it more interesting but narrows space for pedestrians to get past. As more and more people visit Mission bay this issue is likely to get worse. As you can see from these images courtesy of oh.yes.melbourne there is only really enough width for about three people between the kerb and tables.
The business association want to fix this so the proposal is to:
- Replace the existing asphalt footpaths with stone in areas A, B and C as shown in the map below
- Extend the footpath out over the carparks on section D which is between 81 and 97 Tamaki Dr. It would be done by one of three options (more on this soon).
Yes you read that correctly, a local business association and the local board are supporting that carparks be removed outside of their shops so that there is more space can be created pedestrians. Considering how hard some of the other business groups fight to retain parking this is a very positive step. As mentioned there are three different options for section D that have been suggested which range from shifting the existing kerb out and changing adjusting the cross fall of the footpath through to a parklet type solution.
It all sounds pretty good to me but I hear you asking how much will it cost? Well the cost over 10 years including capital costs, interest costs and operating costs (above a normal footpath) for the most expensive option (Option 1) is just over $1 million. Based on other comments it seems Option 1 is the preferred one.
$1 million is not exactly break the bank type spending considering how much we can put into other transport projects but that doesn’t mean money grows on trees and is just lying around waiting to be spent. Also I’m sure there are a heap of other local centres that would love that kind of money to be spent on them and so working out priorities is probably quite difficult. However the business association have a way around that too and are proposing that businesses in the area be charged a targeted rate to pay for the upgrade. This seems like one of those win, win, win type deals with the potential benefits being listed as:
- a wider and more attractive public streetscape for the large and increasing number of domestic and international tourist that visit the area
- an enhanced setting for hosting regional events along Tamaki Drive
- enhanced economic development opportunities for local businesses in the area
- an improved town centre for local residents, at no extra cost to residential and other business ratepayers within the Orakei Local Board area.
It all sounds good but there’s a problem. Council Officers don’t like the idea because it seems they don’t want to go through the process of doing formal consultation and setting up a targeted rate. They say that targeted rates are usually charged to businesses improvement districts (BID) but due to much of the land in Mission Bay being owned by the same company, the business association doesn’t qualify as a (BID). They also say that Retail Holdings Ltd – the main land owner in Mission bay and the primary beneficiary of the upgrade – can easily afford the upgrade on their own right and so should just talk to Auckland Transport directly. The council officers say that the businesses are just trying to use the council as a new source of capital. That might very well be true but at the end of the day this is about upgrading a publicly owned footpath and business association should really be treated in the same way as they would should each building be owned separately. A targeted rate in this instance seems fairly appropriate.
The Orakei local board have ignored the recommendation not to support the targeted rate and so are now asking the governing body to add the rate to the 2014/15 annual plan. They have even noted that Retail Holdings Ltd have agreed not to pass on the targeted rate to their tenants.
As mentioned, to me the project looks like a win, win win type deal. The footpath would be upgraded and widened by removing car parks while the businesses are putting their hands up to pay for it as they obviously see the value of the idea. The council should approve the targeted rate and get the upgrade done now, before the businesses change their mind.