This is a guest post from reader Andy C in Wellington.
Over the past year, the Wellington City Council has started to get serious about brightening up some of our inner-city laneways. According to the Council, they have identified a total of 72 lanes and arcades in the centre of Wellington that could be improved. The plan is now to connect as many of them as possible into “a funky pedestrian network”.
The catalyst for this seems to have been the decision to turn Bond St (which leads onto Willis St, one of the busiest streets for buses in town) from a little through street into a dead end. As a test case it has been a resounding success, with the street itself being painted with bring red polka dots, and a shipping container being used to house an assortment of outdoor furniture and planter boxes that get laid out each day. And from what I have seen, it seems to get good use.
So late last year the Council began to work on a number of other laneways as well – and the results are starting to look pretty darn impressive.
Mason’s lane was previously a dark, dank and uninviting alley with a set of steep stairs leading between Lambton Quay and the Terrace. While not finished, the shot below shows the changes underway. Simply by removing the canopy, freshening up the concrete underfoot, and putting in a small living wall at the back right, along with some funky lights, the place already feels much nicer.
The other area that has taken my fancy is the work being done around Eva and Dixon Streets by the old Hannah’s shoe factory. The Hannah’s Factory was one of the earliest inner-city apartment conversions that I can recall in Wellington, and the changes in this area include an overhead light show, a massive chandelier, themed car parks and (apparently) a machine shooting bubbles from the Six Barrel Soda Company. In my image below you can see the first of the car parks to be painted as shoe boxes (which is a great metaphor I have to say).
Unfortunately, not everyone seems to be a fan. According to the Wellingtonian newspaper Lambton ward councillor Mark Peck said some retailers had told him the [Bond St] pop-up area was discriminatory.
“Spending $100,000 of ratepayers’ money to temporarily enhance Bond St with a pop-up display makes fish of them and fowl of the rest,” Peck said, who owns a competing cafe nearby.
“Council has no business wasting ratepayer money on these sort of feel-good interventions that act as a subsidy to the businesses lucky enough to be in the vicinity,” Peck said. “This action is hurting hardworking business. The sooner it comes to its senses and takes down this abomination, the better.”
I’m not sure if Mark still stands by those comments from last year, but if he does, then I’m a little worried to be honest. I thought he’d be all for an innovation that brings more foot traffic nearby…
As someone who regularly walks around the inner-city I have to say these improvements are making a fantastic change for pedestrians, and giving the city a bit more life. And to check out some of the bigger plans, the Dom Post ran a series of sketches from the Council last year. All I can say is, if the real thing is only half as impressive as these images it will be worth rate payer’s money.
So credit where it is due. While the Council may be madly pursuing an unrealistic dream of a longer Wellington airport runway, in this instance at least, they seem to be getting it right. I can’t wait for the day when focusing on pedestrains in the inner-city just becomes normal.