On Wednesday it was announced that consent had been granted to build a $350 million, 209 metre skyscraper on the empty site at the corner of Victoria, Albert and Elliott streets. This site is location right up against Aotea Station on the City Rail Link, which will be dug out underneath Albert Street in the block between Wellesley and Victoria Streets.
The map below shows the site’s location in relation to Aotea Station:
We’ve said previously, including in our submission on the CRL’s designation application, that a pedestrian entrance to Aotea Station through this site is an absolute no-brainer – especially an entrance that lined up with where Darby Street meets Elliott Street so there’s a ‘line of sight’ level way of accessing Aotea Station from Queen Street. Whether it can go straight from Darby into the station or whether it needs to be on some sort of angle probably depends on whether the stupid slip lane on Albert Street is retained or not. But different options for some pedestrian connection through the site could work like what’s shown below:
The obvious way to provide the link (whether it’s the blue option or the red one) is through some sort of retail arcade at ground level. This is a “win win” situation as it provides a high quality connection between Queen Street and Aotea Station that is flat (rather than people having to trek up Victoria Street) while also creating a huge amount of foot traffic for a successful retail area for the building owner.
A risk that may arise from any delay to the construction of CRL is the possibility that we may lose this opportunity. As Auckland Transport haven’t designated for access to the station across this site, we are reliant upon the goodwill of the developer to provide the connection (although obviously it’s to their advantage due to the foot traffic). But would they build a major retail arcade without the far end of it linking with Auckland’s busiest train station? There may also be helpful synergies of building both the tower and the station at the same time – in terms of underground services, traffic disruption as well as how the two might link together at the Albert Street boundary.
Compared to the dependency of Precinct’s development on the timing of the CRL this is a fairly minor issue. However there do appear to be some important links between the new skyscraper and Aotea Station – particularly in relation to getting the pedestrian links right. Furthermore, I’m pretty sure the developer of the site wouldn’t exactly want a giant construction site right next to their recently opened hotel during the first few years after it’s completed.