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Possibilities on Ponsonby Road

This is 254 Ponsonby Rd.

254 Ponsonby Rd

254 Ponsonby Rd

A low rise and rather miserable example of provincial modernity currently home to a large car park and drive-through, the food retailer Nosh, and a Liquor King.

PONSONBY RD_5066

254 P Rd in context

254 P Rd in context

Just another piece of dross-scape left over from the great auto-age. But what is important about this piece of commercial property is that we own it. We the people that is. The Council bought the site in 2006 for, I believe, around 7.5mil, with the idea that it is a good place for some kind of public space.

It’s ours!: So what should we do with it? There are a few options outlined in the Ponsonby Rd Masterplan here. Discussed in a previous post here.

A small group of very local residents are determined that it must be a public park in its entirety and are running a media campaign to this end which is being reported like this: Battle for Suburb’s Future.

And I kind of agree, this is a bit of a test case about Ponsonby Rd’s future. If this site is deactivated down to simply grass and trees making what would surely be Auckland’s most expensive park per square metre then the idea of Ponsonby Rd being any kind of centre of urban vitality and intensity will have suffered another blow. And the opportunity to patch a gap in the continuity of the streetscape will be missed.

The main argument for this being gardened at public expense is a rough calculation that Ponsonby has proportionately less parkland than other areas. Is this a valid metric for land use decisions?, looks like a crazy bit of bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo to me. Areas are different, I would hope and expect to see more parkland in outer suburbs and more intensive urban land use in inner city areas. Doesn’t Ponsonby self-describe as a funky inner city area quite unlike most or even all of the rest of Auckland? Do we really want to level it out so that it’s the same as everywhere else? Street culture can only develop from intensity of activity; for Ponsonby to retain its vitality it needs to build up not water down its land use to suburban levels.

Most would agree that city open space is great and hip inner city retail and dinning areas need it too, but living in the area I already enjoy Western Park, Grey Lynn Park, Cox’s Bay Park, Victoria Park and the nearby Tole Reserve [part of which is shown above], but I certainly didn’t come to here all those decades ago because of its supply of open space. Quite the reverse, what is unique and valuable about the area is its built intensity as described in this previous post. We have raised three kids in the area and never once experienced a lack of parks or swings and slides. Vermont St has a park, so does Brown…

But even if we agree that the main problem faced by Ponsonby Rd is a lack of open space [which certainly isn't clear], then we have to ask if this is the best place for it? To answer that we need to ask what sort of open space is ideal for urban centres like Ponsonby Rd? And what is the best use of public money to meet these ends. I agree that Ponsonby Rd’s physical qualities are poor and need investment but this looks awfully like all our eggs in one very expensive basket and with a very questionable result. How about improving the quality of the entire streetscape of this strip? The street, surely that is locus of the public realm in urban places. More trees along the the length of the street [those that are already there are great], raised pedestrian tables on side streets, fine grained and activated ‘laneway’ types of public space, narrowing the tops of streets like Mackelvie St, these sorts of things strike me as much more valuable than one bland plot of inactivity.

Because it is on one of Auckland’s premier shopping streets the land is valuable and potentially generates a healthy rate income for the city. The latest figures we can find is a capital value of 7.5million and the current rundown building pays 57,800 in rates pa. So there is a tremendous opportunity here to fund a whole lot of public realm improvements in the area as well as getting much better use of this site by redeveloping it rather than just making and maintaining a park on this site.

254 Ponsonby Rd

254 Ponsonby Rd

In considering what should happen here it’s important to note that the site has two distinct qualities in terms of its adjacent properties: commercial neighbours up at the Ponsonby Rd end and residential ones down at its western end. Furthermore its Ponsonby Rd face has real public realm responsibilities that the current building certainly completely ignores. So even if it was to be developed to its maximum extent the scale of structures at the bottom end of the site would be governed by those residential neighbours and the top end by its. Especially in terms of massing, height, and proximity to boundaries.

So it’s impossible to put a tower block on it even if that were desirable, but it does give us the opportunity to fix one the many ‘broken teeth’ in the line of commercial buildings on the strip. I, for one, would really like to see a structure at the Ponsonby Rd end of this site at least of a comparable volume to the adjacent Edwardian shops, right up to the footpath to repair the continuity of the built edge. Preferably separated from that building with a narrow laneway down to another running between O’Neill and Tole Sts and a properly urban courtyard towards the middle of the site connecting to all three streets . The western end is ideal for residential at a similar density as its neighbours [and how hypocritical would the neighbours be to complain of that?]. So the protected centre of the site would be public space with connections to existing streets and opportunities for sophisticated paved courtyards and planted, all served by retail.

This would enable commercial activity to continue on the site, it would create a more fine grained public realm, continue the built wall edge to the Ponsonby Rd footpath, with cover from the elements and for pedestrians and the bus stop, remove the awful vehicle crossing currently at the top of the site, and of course release to the city a whole lot of capital and future rating income to make improvements all along Ponsonby Rd’s length or perhaps to concentrate that effort somewhere better nearby.

Ponsonby Rd with St Johns

Ponsonby Rd with St Johns

And I think there is a somewhere else that would make for a much cleverer use of these public funds, including some really much better open space. And it’s just across the road: St Johns:

St Johns Ponsonby

St Johns Ponsonby

Built in 1882 this timber ‘carpenter’s gothic’ Gothic Revival methodist church is desperately in need of love. Its spire makes it the tallest building on Ponsonby Rd yet somehow it is easy to overlook. It has a Category 2 listing with Historic Places, yet I seriously doubt that the church, no matter how much they love this building, have the resources to maintain it. Maybe it is still used richly by the church but if so this happens very subtly, and certainly doesn’t happen in any public way involving the local community. It seems like it needs a new use in order to justify maintenance let alone restoration. It is fenced off from Ponsonby Rd and has a bunch of very unfortunate additions on its sides and rear and sits in a sea of tarmac on a fantastic site gently tipping towards the city, offering fabulous views, especially at dusk. Instead of a formless park on the 254 site we could have this restored and repurposed Victorian building sitting in an urban space like the new one surrounding St Patricks in the city.

PONSONBY RD_5037

PONSONBY_5088

PONSONBY RD_5042

Its latest valuation is 3.94mil and pays just 207.80 in rates [presumably just for the carparks occupied by local businesses]. I have no idea if the church would be happy to sell, or if there is a way it could still serve them along with new uses but I do know that Ponsonby Rd lacks any theatrical venue [despite its artistic reputation] or other kinds of performance or public meeting space. By taking this on we could get not only a historic building of extremely high value, but also the funds to at least begin to restore it, reconnect it to both the street and the community, a new venue for all sorts of activities, and new open space of value [especially if the additions are removed]. Furthermore this is on the northern and more residential side of the street, so the open space ca be added without causing a break in the activation of the streetscape on the commercial side of the strip.

Ponsonby Rd St Johns

This idea looks like a huge win/win to me. Financially, certainly, but also in terms of built heritage, public amenity, and it means open space without de-intensifying this urban centre.

I have no idea if the St Johns idea is possible, so it certainly isn’t a case of the Nosh site or St Johns but I do think we need to be creative with opportunities like this. It is, after all very easy to be in favour of preserving our built heritage but it is much more powerful to come up with a means to actually do so. Which essentially means finding vibrant new uses for valuable old buildings.

I understand the concern the direct neighbours will have about any change to the 254 site, especially because it is in public ownership, but having people in houses just like them next door and a whole lot of retail options at the main street end of the site is almost certainly a better outcome than a vapid and windswept public park with all the informal nighttime recreational activities that this will attract, and clearly is better than the car park they currently have now. But also they are not the only ones affected by what happens on this site. The Ponsonby Rd frontage in particular is something owned by us all.

There are a lot of pressures on the whole Ponsonby area, a lot of competing claims and different points of view. And fair enough, but the number of sites for development has already been shrunk to a narrow strip along the ridge so to reduce this further is to undermine the very source of Ponsonby’s identity and success; it’s intensity.

 

 

 

54 comments to Possibilities on Ponsonby Road

  • Bryce P

    Fantastic post Patrick. Looks like an awesome opportunity. I would be a waste to not at least ask the question as to availability.

  • conan

    Obviously a good site for Sir Ed’s grandmothers house

    http://m.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11199035

    Seriously though a great solution. A new development on this site would help rebalance Ponsonby Road. The success of the developments around Richmond Road has really left this area behind.

    And it does seem we can trust developers to understand what works in Ponsonby Road.

  • Fred

    I don’t think a ‘half and half’ solution would work well on this site, so I like your idea of focusing public investment across the road and making a great combined open space and community building there.

  • Great Article and research!

    It’s definitely a better plan than anything else going on there!~

  • Hang on, can’t I see a park about a hundred metres away?

    And the idea that Ponsonby has less parks per hectare is simply absurd. They would have had to conveniently left out the entirety of Western Park for that to be true. Perhaps they should look at average distance to a park, because Ponsonby is dotted with them off nearly every street.

    “informal nighttime recreational activities”.
    Well put, I wonder if the park advocates living nearby had considered that.

  • Frank McRae

    Great ideas there Patrick. Ponsonby has an abundance of open space and it must have taken some creative gerrymandering of the study area to find that the suburb has less parks per hectare than others.

    Despite how much sense Patrick’s proposal makes, I suspect there will still be significant support for a park at 254 Ponsonby Road not least because it gives self-entitled residents another chance to stop development.

    • conan

      Nick and Frank, I would say that if you stuck to the generally agreed boundaries of Ponsonby you’d probably find that the calculation is correct. However as you point out Nick, this would exclude Western Park (which is in Freeman’s Bay, despite bordering Ponsonby Road). It would also exclude Grey Lynn Park and Coxs Bay Reserve. Factor this into a wider ‘inner western suburbs’ grouping and I suspect you’d find that the area is well served by parks. In any case a little pocket park like this is hardly going to change much one way or another and the land could be put to so much better use.

    • bbc

      Not all people living in Ponsonby are ‘self-entitled residents’. To be perfectly honest, I’d say the Waitemata Local Board elected by residents of also Ponsonby is probably the most progressive in the city. A large proportion of the population live here because they’re clued up on what a ‘liveable’ city is like. Don’t label an entire community based on the actions of a vocal minority.

      • conan

        To be fair to Frank you could (and I did) read this as criticism of the said ‘self-entitled residents’ as opposed to the general population of the community.

        • Frank McRae

          Exactly. I was writing about the few but vocal self-entitled residents not all residents. In fact my biggest problem with these people is that they are unrepresentative of the general population, but the amount of noise they make means they can manipulate policy in their favour.

  • PS1

    “Its latest valuation is 3.94mil and pays just 207.80 in rates [presumably just for the carparks occupied by local businesses].” Hi Patrick do you have any info on why their rates are so low. Our small local family farmers are being forced off their farms and to subdivide as the economics don’t stack up. As a small farm (10 acres ish worth about 2 mill – guesstimates) would cost them approximately 5-10k per year in rates. They use very few community facilities – eg no footpaths or sewerage or civic buildings in our area. You have to sell a lot of produce to make 5 to 10k in rates worth while. Almost all other countrys have differing rate structures for farmers to support the small local farms particularly on the fringes of Urban areas. Ours get a rough ride.

    • Luke C

      Numbers seem to be true for blocks adjacent to Kumeu, and likely to go to residential very soon, but not for anywhere really rural.
      Rural Roads are extremely expensive to maintain, this chews up most of the rates budget I bet. Rural roads across the country cross-subsidised by other road users.
      Also 10 acres is not a farm, its a lifestyle block. Subdivision should never have been allowed in the first place. Most farmers are in it for the capital gains anyway, I think they will do very well of of the capital gains earnings.
      The Unitary Plan does do quite well to help though. By laying out over 30 years where will be developed, and which will be left as production gives people certainty. Should stop large price inflation in the rural production land.

      • PS1

        Exactly, they only make the money from Capital Gains so they are forced to sell. How do the people of Kumeu feel about it. Are they sad about losing their blocks. I realise 10acres is a non productive sized farm anymore. But I think for the country living zone it’s important to fight for some of these remaining local farm remnants as part of our cultural heritage. Somewhere for kids in Auckland to see blossoms, eat a genuine piece of fresh picked fruit and ride a tractor or just drive past. Small family farms provide a humanity to our food and existence and our place. I think they are as important of being the worlds most liveable city as density and cafe’s and events. I think Auckland will look back with regret if we lose them. And lose our rural villages. There is a large movement appreciating slow locally grown food and what that means. We support the arts why can’t we make this happen. It feels important.

        • The best way to ensure that children have access to all those rural things is to make Auckland as dense as possible and preserve working farms. Cutting the productive farms up into many privately held, non-productive lots will not help the average child to experience rural life. Especially when the people living on them consume many times the resources of an apartment dweller.

          I agree we should protect productive farms around Auckland but why would we help out people on lifestyle blocks that contribute nothing and in fact make the situation worse?

    • Patrick R

      Because it’s a church. They don’t pay rates. Which is why it is hard to get them to sell properties that they are sitting on and often neglecting, no time pressure. See the active destruction of Carlisle House in nearby Richmond Rd. Only possible purchaser is the Council, church wants to sell but is holding out for silly money and ransacking the heritage building to try to force the Council to pay over the odds. Scandalous.

      • PS1

        So we support religion (who often tithe 20%), and the arts (both with central and local governmnt funds), but not small locally grown produce. It’s outdated. I think we need to look at our rates system. Australia is campaigning against our food and products. Locally grown produce is going to be really important in the future. And in the Yarra valley farms are rated at a lower percentage. And in the uk they are given credits for custodianship to the land. I think if you are using your land in a productive way you should have a lower rates percentage. Sorry to hijack thread.

  • Tony L

    If the road was treated as open space and became a street, a place rather than a corridor, there would be a considerable increase of open space available. The council as owner and kaitiaki has a responsibility to look at all options for the site. One way to do that would be to have an open design competition supporting innovation in architecture and urban design. Personally i would like to see a series of roof top ‘parks’ along the Ponsonby ridge taking advantage of the dramatic topography and views.

  • JimboJones

    Maybe there is a need in Ponsonby for a place where you can easily park your car and pick up a few beers or some food!

    I personally can’t see any reason for the council to own this – they should sell it ASAP. Let the market decide what the best use is.

    Ponsonby is already a great place to live – lets use that money making somewhere else a better place to live.

    • harrymc

      Why do you assume everyone has a car?
      Yeah, “the market”: that has really done a great job of providing housing in Auckland (cue Tui billboard….)

      • PS1

        “Maybe” there is a need for somewhere to park a car: does not equate to everyone has a car. And let the market decide. The market has provided an amazing level of amenity of a high quality in Ponsonby. And it would do so with this space. That places exist outside Ponsonby that may have a greater need for investment to increase liveability and economic viability, as the market is not functioning optimally and needs some sort of intervention. This is not the case here.

        • But the vaunted “free market” isnt really free and the ridiculous exclusionary zoning laws in operation in Auckland combined with rampant NIMBYism would mean that the market is anything but free.

          Once those two factors have come into play, the range of options for the site would be negligible.

          If the Council said “all zoning rules are scrapped, you can build whatever you want on this site with no consultation with the local community” that would be a free market. Not the tightly controlled system we have now where every man and his dog gets to have a say and push their anti-development agenda.

          • JimboJones

            Agreed it is anything but a free market – but that doesn’t that mean the council should be buying buildings and developing them!

            If it makes sense to use private land for a carpark, so be it. If not, someone will redevelop that carpark into something else.

          • bbc

            Because there’s not parking along the entire length of Ponsonby Rd, there’re no supermarkets already built or being built with vast numbers of car parks, and there are no rules that stipulate anything that is built has a minimum number of car parks. It’s a tough life living in Auckland and wanting to drive everywhere. Sometimes it feels like only 99.9% of the city is geared for your convenience.

          • JimboJones – Why not? That is what councils and governments do all over Northern Europe and their cities work much better than ours. This assumption that only private enterprise can get things right is really myopic.

            The whole Wellington rail network was created on the classic European “cluster and connect” model that dominates Northern Europe. And as today’s post on that network points out it is a vital part of Wellington’s transport infrastructure. The C&C model allows the increase in value to be captured by the public realm and rerouted into further development creating a virtuous circle of development. This is exactly how cities like Singapore and Hong Kong (also in Japan) can afford to fund such great and successful public projects.

            That cluster and connect model was very successful and was to be rolled out to Auckland and Christchurch until the neoliberal, motorway obsessed National government of 1949 gradually scuppered all those plans. Just look at the Master Transport Plan of 1951.

            Why when we look around at such a dysfunctional city that has been left (at least since the 1950s) to private interests to shape, do we still assume that private enterprise and the profit motive are necessarily going to lead to the best results for public space? As far as I can see, it only leads to the best results for the shareholders in the private enterprise.

            This isnt an ideological battle but one to create the best result for people, the ones who actually live in the city.

    • Dan C

      They are building that already down the road, it’s called countdown. Pleanty of room to park you car and pick up some beers.

  • Jennifer Ward

    Many thanks to Patrick for his post and engaging in the discourse about this important site.

    As he rightly states “what is important about this piece of land is that we own it”.

    However his comment that “a small group of very local residents”, referencing the article by the Auckland Harbour City News headlined, “Battle for suburbs future”, diminishes the importance of the debate.

    His view that the creation of the park will allow the site to be “deactivated down to simply grass and trees” and consequently that “the idea of Ponsonby Rd being any kind of centre of urban vitality and intensity will have suffered another blow”, is mystifying. I think these views are predicated on outdated and unimaginative ideas about what the park might actually be.

    His assertion that “the opportunity to patch a gap in the continuity of the streetscape will be missed” also offers a one-dimensional view of what a vibrant and inclusive urban centre is. For many people it is not simply uninterrupted retail.

    He writes, “The main argument for this being gardened at public expense is a rough calculation that Ponsonby has proportionately less parkland than other areas. Is this a valid metric for land use decisions?”
    I would respond that Ponsonby is already acknowledged as being under resourced for open, green space and with the welcomed intensification of the city, more should be retained and developed to accommodate the increasing population. This is no way implies we want to be homogenized into a generic ‘Auckland suburb’ (if such a thing even exists) but we do want to develop social amenities for our Community and the visitors who come here due of our uniqueness.
    As Jan Gehl says, “Nothing in the world is more simple and cheap than making cities that provide better for people”.

    Western Park is a beautiful gully (steep) park and Grey Lynn , Cox’s Bay and Victoria Parks are wonderful amenities but none are part of the streetscape of Ponsonby Road. Tole Street Reserve is a ‘wet’ park and like most of Ponsonby’s green spaces, it is hidden away from the urban environment and is disconnected from the street interface.

    Obfuscating the argument by attaching Ponsonby Roads poor physical qualities to the development of a vibrant and active park is contradictory. Let’s definitely all keep working at improving the entire streetscape of Ponsonby Road but perhaps a better focus might be the site at 248 Ponsonby Road rather than the beautiful park we are advocating for.

    Patrick also says, “The street, surely that is locus of the public realm in urban places”. However I imagine he is also including the footpaths, the promised cycle ways and all the open areas and spaces where ‘the street’ breathes – including parks.

    Our park concepts already encompass and promote ‘the fine grained’ and ‘activated’ laneway types of public space usage he advocates for. However we go further than this mere connectedness as we additionally advocate for the development, promotion and most importantly, the prioritization of social capital within our community via the whole-of-the-site park.
    Our vision is nothing like Patrick’s “one bland plot of inactivity”.

    The residents support intensification and before anyone dashes to their knee-jerk Nimby response, consider these words again from Jan Ghel, “First life, then the spaces and the buildings last. Always in that order.”

    The whole-of-the-site park does precisely this – it supports intensification. Our vision is social, inclusive, progressive and future proofed. We are the YIMBYs – YES in my backyard.

    Three of the four proposals for the site in the Ponsonby Road Draft Masterplan cited ‘lack of passive surveillance as a disadvantage’. (CPTED an acronym for ‘Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design’) advocates for passive surveillance of public areas. And this is exactly what we the residents have been doing with this site for years. It is already an open area. This is a non-starter argument.

    There can still be cover from the elements for pedestrians and the bus users with the establishment of the whole-of-the-site park plus a much more ‘fine grained’ public realm than simply more retail could ever inspire. The ‘awful’ vehicle crossing would still be gone.

    The St Johns argument is a red herring. The land is privately owned by the church and would cost millions of $ to purchase, let alone the negotiations etc. The site at 254 Ponsonby Road is already in the ratepayers ownership.

    We are not advocating a ‘formless park’ and it does not need to be an either/or choice to develop St Johns or the whole-of-the-site park at 254. Yes, St Johns would be wonderful restored, the unfortunate additions removed, the grounds landscaped and opened up as a pedestrian/cycling green way. Possibly this is the vision of the property owners, possibly not. But this decision is theirs to make and not ours.

    If a theatrical venue is to be had then the Alhambra in Three Lamps could be restored back to its original purpose.

    ‘Activation of the streetscape’ is meaningless jargon if it imagines retail as the only way of achieving this. Activation by definition is activity and activity is people. The whole-of-the-site park will be full of people. “Vapid and windswept” may be Patrick’s vision but ours is completely different. Also the scaremongering of “informal night time recreational activities this will attract” is not of concern to us as we already have lived with an open and accessible site here for years that we manage, via our passive surveillance and activity.

    Of course we the residents are “not the only ones affected by what happens on this site. The Ponsonby Road frontage is something owned by all of us”. Yes it is and let’s keep it that way – owned by and available to all of us without needing to open our wallets to access it. The 800 signatures our petition has gathered so far for the whole-of-the-site park is a clear voice from the Community as to what their preference.

    The source of Ponsonby’s identity and success is not its intensity (if this were so then Hobson Street would be a shining example for these very qualities which it sadly is not) rather it is its diversity, its people and the social capital they generate (the as yet non-intensified Wynyard Quarter) and that is why we advocate for the whole-of-the-site park.

    Join us.
    https://www.facebook.com/PonsonbyPark

    • Walkablecity

      Thanks Jennifer, for contributing to the discussion and articulating some important points. The St. John’s idea has perplexed me, and the fact that they who own it don’t use the space as others would like them to, is a moot point. As a local resident who rents a 43 sq m apartment, of my choosing, but really because that’s what I can afford and some limitations that make living further out difficult, the pocket parks and reserves make the area a nice place to live. Not noisy Chapel Bar, not the wealthy home owners, not the public that drives in and expects a car park and when that fails they park on the footpath anyway. Western Park and Grey Lynn Park are fantastic. But these pocket parks are what really help to make the area nice in a connected way. Not everyone is able bodied to drive or even walk far, and for these people, and everyone else, this space as a park will be wonderful.

    • There’s a lot there Jennifer but the following sentence is the most troubling:

      “The residents support intensification…”

      Are you sure?, perhaps you do but the rest of your group don’t exactly have much of a pro-intensification record. And anyway; then where exactly? If not on commercial sites like this then where? Not in residential zones, surely. Always somewhere else. And yes there is a good word for that. Or perhaps what intensification is simply misunderstood; the removal of the current activities from this site, including the employment they offer, is literally the opposite of intensification, it is to de-intensify the area.

      “The whole-of-the-site park does precisely this – it supports intensification. Our vision is social, inclusive, progressive and future proofed. We are the YIMBYs – YES in my backyard.”
      Come on Jennifer that’s nonsense- A park cannot be construed as development or intensification, you are not saying yes to anything this expression refers to and you know it. This is the very definition of Not In My Back Yard. Intensification means more city not less.

      “…and before anyone dashes to their knee-jerk Nimby response, consider these words again from Jan Ghel, “First life, then the spaces and the buildings last. Always in that order.”

      And I’m sorry but you misinterpret Gehl here completely. He is not saying buildings are not needed, but rather he is having a swing at architects or others who believe urban success primarily comes from building appearance, the design of the object. He is simply putting the object design below spatial design in importance; what urban designer doesn’t?, and both to be in service of human activity. Your interpretation would have us believe that Gehl’s ideal city consists of people in an empty field.

      It would be silly to get into an argument about who has this or that foreign urbanist on their team, but Gehl’s work is all about making spaces that work. That work for people, and work economically, and just the first of these is a less straight forward business than it may appear. I understand how easy it is to jump from the idea that if some space is good then more space must be better. But smaller urban spaces are vital and often function much better and this is a big site and containment will be an important feature here. I am making a plea for the consideration that that containment should come from buildings at the top of the site in part because of the value these offer the main street, but also because of the quality of space that can then be formed between buildings.

      If it is to be all open space it just isn’t clear to me how this site would work well. Who will use it and how? [as Gehl would ask, remember; 'First life...] Unlike the top of Western Park it isn’t a thoroughfare on the way to anywhere so it won’t be used daily by walking commuters or students in any number, nor is it a secret treasure like Tole Reserve, tucked away to be discovered for solitude. If the obvious users aren’t those who are already on the street here; shoppers and cafe and restaurant visitors I don’t know who is? And if it’s for them then it’d better offer a continuation of those services as well as some respite from them, or it’ll be one very empty place. Or is it just to be a private resource for the residents of O’Neill St?

      I’m sure the previous board had good intentions when they bought it but it doesn’t mean that we can’t ask whether it was the smartest use of our money and the right thing for this very particular place. I really can’t see this site working even in the terms you describe without some kind of activation beyond paving and planting; and that means buildings with real functions to provide shape and scale, and of course [seen we're quoting famous urbanists] to provide ‘eyes on the street’. And no that doesn’t include faux gazebos or other functionless trinkets.

      I also don’t think you can gloss over the issue of this purchase having sucked investment out of the whole of the strip so lightly either, see Graeme Easte’s comment below. How will anything else from the Masterplan get funded if so much local public money goes into this one place, especially as it even further reduces Council income from the area, while adding a new ongoing cost?

      It is clear that we are going to have to be clever with this site, and that its use will have to be decided in the context of the whole strip. And that this is not going to be an easy task, but it’s great that there seems to be so much interest in the possibilities!

      • Frank McRae

        I have heard someone try to use Jan Gehl’s film The Human Scale as evidence to argue that Auckland should remain a city of low rise detached houses and that any intensification is bad. It’s funny how people selectively interpret work to suit their existing world view.

  • As Chair of the Western Bays Community Board ten years ago I was involved in the confidential meeting which decided to purchase the Liquor King Site and land bank it for future development as public open space. Agreed that it was not necessarily in the ideal location for a pocket park on the northern stretch of Ponsonby Road, it was a rare opportunity for Council where a potential site was on the market.

    As I recall, at the time of purchase it was not necessarily intended to be all developed as a park – the prime motivation was to develop a small green oasis in the midst of a busy commercial strip rather than a substantial park. As the purchase used up all of the Board’s available capital fund from Development Contributions (and then some) we did not have the resources to develop the site immediately – so there was no point in drawing up detailed plans at the time. Nevertheless some concepts were floated. These ranged from a fairly modest “pleasance” with a mix of paving/planting and seats through to a larger park with play equipment, etc.. Most thinking envisaged using the lower end of the site for housing, community buildings, even car parking. I do not recall anyone suggesting commercial buildings on the site – the prospect which most annoys the locals.

    On the point of selling part or all of the site. There is a problem with Council policy on land sales – the money will go back to treasury and there is no guarantee that it will be spent in the area from which it came.

  • “You can neither lie to a neighbourhood park, nor reason with it. ‘Artist’s conceptions’ and persuasive renderings can put pictures of life into proposed neighbourhood parks or park malls, and verbal rationalizations can conjure up users who ought to appreciate them, but in real life only diverse surroundings have the practical power of inducing a natural, continuing flow of life and use.”
    ― Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities

  • Two questions:
    1) What is so wrong with Tole Reserve that Ponsonby needs another park 150m away?
    2) Would the new park be any different to the existing one?

    Parnell has one of these, on the corner of Parnell Rd and Ruskin St right in the middle of the town centre shopping strip. It’s always been a weird and empty place when I’ve been there, even in full sun. It seems out of place to me.

    Ponsonby Rd, and Parnell, are both great urban linear centres. Their streets are their very nature, and their public open space. Rather than eight million dollars on one awkward corner of grass why not spend eight million on the length of Ponsonby Rd instead? Shift some parking and kerbs and add a multitude of points to stop and linger. Hell bring back the avenue of street trees that used to be there. That would do much more for the area than a small park.

  • Walkablecity

    Ugh. Jane Jacobs was also vehemently against any kind of up zoning. While I appreciate the ‘quaint’ lower east side. That area has been mummified and looks the same as when my great grandparents arrived penniless and lived in those horrible, crammed, often windowless tenements, Ms. Jacobs would support Res 1 and oppose new apartment buildings, thus impeding the necessary housing stock to address housing affordability. Worth noting that the Lucky Taco food cart that sets up in front of the Flying Fish studios draws a serious crowd. This is the opportunity that an open public space can bring.

    • Frank McRae

      But buildings in the historic lower east side were consistently 5 to 6 storeys high, not 1 to 2 storeys like Ponsonby.

    • Patrick R

      No, lucky Taco is what a car park can bring. And it brings a great improvement to any carpark. But you are now arguing for a park because it can have a temporary shop in it. Why not a real shop, ie buildings then?

      You mischaracterise JJ too, as she understood the need for density better than almost anyone, her opposition was to to mega projects and freeways as opposed to the existing density of Manhattan. A scale of density that is way above what is here; we can’t even build a four storey mixed use walk up here.

      The problem here is that this site is not surrounded by buildings of any scale filled with people looking for light and air and somewhere outside for a break and socialisation in he way say Freyberg Place is. That place fills up wonderfully every lunch time from the surrounding built intensity. This is just isn’t there on Ponsonby Rd, especially at this point. There really is no possible demand for a park of this scale in this location and it is a terrible waste of a valuable site both for the street and in terms of what else we could get with the value tied up in it.

  • Walkablecity

    Most people mischaracterise Jane Jacobs, primarily because it her response was to a particular type of transport/infrastructure proposal at that time. None of us, neither you nor I, can say with any certainty what she would say now. To do so is purely predicated on assumptions. Definitely not supportive of a car park.

  • Walkablecity

    Good point also about not needing the land for air and light, thought I remain unconvinced that it wouldn’t be used. I’m not fighting for the space to be a park, but recognise that in my pov, it would be wonderful. However, if that money can be put to good use elsewhere, with the evidence provided by Council re what how that money would be spend, then I’m completely open to that. This is a great forum to discuss this, not for accusations of and aggression, thanks.

  • Tony L

    The best idea so far……….the council needs to hold an ideas design competition for the site.

  • Bottom line is that this is an already very unintensive part of Ponsonby Rd. It’s quiet and will largely remain so because the other side of the Road is largely residential. The strip relies on this side to provide the attractors, the vitality, the continuity. So to spend a fortune to deactivate a large commercial site here is crazy. This is the wrong place.

    Unless of course our aim is quieten everything down and to lower activity towards the state of a suburban cul-de-sac. Madness.

  • Jennifer Ward

    Patrick says, “A park cannot be construed as development or intensification, you are not saying yes to anything this expression refers to and you know it. This is the very definition of Not In My Back Yard. Intensification means more city not less”.

    In response I would say that the park is mostly definitely development (see our Facebook page for examples and inspiration) and it supports intensification. Amenity and intensification must go hand in hand. Intensification without amenity is Hobson Street and I don’t think even he would advocate for more of this amenity free, wasteland intensification?
    As Ponsonby continues to intensify the already acknowledged lack of green space will become an even more pressing issue. Where will the children recreate? Where will the teenagers and young adults meet and hang out? Where will the young parents take their children? Where will the lonely, the poor the disabled – not to mention the hip, the cool and the everyday people go for their social capital? To a shop?

    And as Graeme Easte says, “On the point of selling part or all of the site. There is a problem with Council policy on land sales – the money will go back to treasury and there is no guarantee that it will be spent in the area from which it came”.
    So selling would be a dumb move.

    • Frank McRae

      “Won’t someone please think of the Children” – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qh2sWSVRrmo

      “As Ponsonby continues to intensify”

      Where is Ponsonby continuing to intensify? Didn’t some parts of the area lose population in the last census due to flats full of young people and families being replaced with childless boomers. And there is almost no scope for intensification under the Unitary Plan in this area.

    • Dan C

      > Where will the children recreate? Where will the teenagers and young adults meet and hang out? Where will the young parents take their children? Where will the lonely, the poor the disabled – not to mention the hip, the cool and the everyday people go for their social capital?

      Um, where they do today. Tole Reserve, Costley St Park, Grey Lynn Park, Western Park…

    • This is a very quiet section of Ponsonby Road with a sizeable park 150 metres away. There is very little chance of much more development happening along here; and none what so ever in the residential zone. Under the Unitary Plan the Town Centre Zone along Ponsonby Rd already has a special lower height limit, 12.5m instead of 16.5m, for some unknown reason. Presumably to placate some suburban minded locals. This idea is an extremely expensive spend that works against Ponsonby Road’s essentially urban nature. A mistake, frankly.

      The idea that Ponsonby Rd is either park-less or intense is risible. Any chance that this area will become home to any quantity of say 6 or 8 storey apartment blocks and I’d be with you, or even one 20 storey one. But little more can be added here; The land is occupied and the controls tight.

      Practical issues of funding if divested can be negotiated.

      I understand that you would like a park just across from your front door but why not say so? Claiming you are supporting intensification by lobbying for this is just dishonest. If you were simply motivated by some crushing need for public open space you wouldn’t dismiss the St John site proposal out of hand. Clearly your lobbying is all about the site you are adjacent to and nowhere else.

      PS This is what intensification actually looks like: http://transportblog.co.nz/2014/02/12/massive-cbd-tower-announced/

  • Walkablecity

    Yeah! But all Ponsonby residents have private back yards and swimming pools, so they can recreate privately…except for those that wish to stay in the area and can only afford to live in apartments, even well into their 30s. Gentrification sucks for those on the “too late to buy” end of that spectrum.

  • Jennifer Ward

    I have a more holistic view of intensification rather than an isolated silo site approach.
    Playing the ‘man’ rather than the ball diminishes any debate. One of the many things I’ve enjoyed about the Transport blog is that this doesn’t (usually) happen.

    • Jennifer there’s been plenty of opportunity for you to be honest about your motivation but instead you keep insisting that you have some not credible pro-intensity and not-a-NIMBY motivation. Shame.

      It’s perfectly reasonable to worry about what happens on a site next door and to get involved in discussions about it, but hardly reasonable to expect your self interest not to be called.

  • Metotisi Samoa

    Our congregation will NOT sell our church to anyone! Im sorry but reading this just supports our views of not selling. This building has been part of our Samoan Methodist Congregation for more than 30 years, dating back to the early 1960′s when we first held and began our services here. The Hall complex and others around the Falesa(Church) was built with our own funds and the restoration and maintenance all done with our hands and money. This church means alot to our congregation of 200+ because most of us have been married and baptised at our beautiful Falesa, also bearing in mind our many elders, children and family who have gone before us having their funeral services here. The Hall is a latest edition being built in 1989. The Small hall next to the Church dates back to the 70′s which was used as a Cultural Centre for our congregation when we were together with the English congregation. Because of numbers lacking, the Samoans were given the property because of our many many members who have and still attend this church. Even living out in South Auckland, we still return to P.M.C because that building is part of our lives and has been recognised as the FIRST SAMOAN METHODIST CHURCH IN NEW ZEALAND. And to use our Falesa for the wrong reasons and to use it for other purposes instead of the purpose of what is was built for, TO PRAY AND PRAY TO GOD, I hate and would be disgusted to think about it. So to answer your question whether the church would be happy to sell? No is the answer.

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