City Math

There was a good article a few days ago by Brent Toderian in Toronto’s Metro News highlighting that if you use the “math of city-making”, which is often at odds with the way cities have developed over the last 60+ decades, you can build a better city. Brent has visited Auckland a few times to work with the council on planning issues and has talked at a number of Auckland Conversations events including here in 2013 and here a year later.

Here are some of the examples he uses in his article.

  • A common political argument is that bike and transit riders should “pay their own way.” A study in Vancouver however suggested that for every dollar we individually spend on walking, society pays just 1 cent. For biking, it’s eight cents, and for bus-riding, $1.50. But for every personal dollar spent driving, society pays a whopping $9.20! Such math makes clear where the big subsidies are, without even starting to count the broader environmental, economic, spatial and quality-of-life consequences of our movement choices. The less people need to drive in our cities, the less we all pay, in more ways than one.
  • Another study in Copenhagen (where the full cost of transportation choices are routinely calculated) found that when you factor in costs like time, accidents, pollution and climate change, each kilometre cycled actually gains society 18 cents!
  • A recent American study suggested that compact development, on average, costs 38 per cent less in up-front infrastructure and 10 per cent less in ongoing service delivery than conventional suburban development, while generating 10 times more per acre in tax revenue. Many cities overbuilding the suburbs are putting their fiscal future at risk — and that’s before the bigger picture costs are even included.
  • Over the last decade, Canadian cities like Calgary, Edmonton, London, Halifax, Regina and Abbotsford have been doing the hard math on the real costs of how and where they grow — not just up or out, but how smarter design choices save costs. The resulting math has been powerful — tens of billions of dollars more of public cost for car-dependant suburban growth than for smart infill — and I haven’t even yet seen such a study that includes all the full and life-cycle costs of our growth choices. Once these shocking numbers are revealed, municipal leaders can’t “un-know” them, no matter what political ideology they live by.

Want more examples? There’s math showing that replacing on-street parking with safe, separated bike-lanes is good for street-fronting businesses. That crime goes down as density goes up. That providing housing for the homeless actually saves public money. That you can move more people on a street when car lanes are replaced by well-designed space for walking, biking and transit.

There are of course many others we’ve seen and covered over the years, including many local studies that have shown the same results as above. Do you have any city math favourites?

The height of trees and the height of buildings

Auckland is a very leafy city. The trees that our forebears planted have slowly grown to maturity, resulting in many streets and suburbs with an attractive amount of greenery.

The city’s street trees are especially valuable… where they have been allowed to survive traffic engineering standards. For instance, there’s an immense difference in the look and feel of different parts of Symonds St. Areas around the university, with abundant, mature trees, feel much better than the concrete channel near the Wakefield St intersection.

Leafiness - CBD

But will development of taller buildings in residential neighbourhoods – three-storey townhouses and midrise apartments – erode Auckland’s leafiness? Will the buildings slowly grow above the trees, resulting in a landscape of roofs rather than a landscape of trees?

Evidence from other cities suggests that the answer is no. For example, Stu Donovan tells me that in Amsterdam street trees still rise above the midrise apartment blocks, creating leafy vistas.

To understand what might happen in Auckland as the city grows up, I’ve taken a look at the height of common street trees in New Zealand cities. Unfortunately, data on street trees in Auckland wasn’t easy to come by, but a PhD thesis by Fredericke Behrens provides some data on the abundance of different types of street trees in Christchurch. (“Selecting public street and park trees for urban environments“, Lincoln University, 2011)

Here’s a list of the ten most abundant street trees in Christchurch (Table 5-2 in the thesis), along with approximate mature heights (generally sourced from Wikipedia). Eight of the ten species have mature heights in the range of 15 metres or more, while three can grow up to 25 metres.

These species will generally be of a similar height as mid-rise apartment blocks, which may be in the range of 4-7 storeys high. Silver birches or ribbonwoods on the street can be attractive complements to medium-density development.

Species name Origin Mature height Equivalent to:
Betula pendula (silver birch) Exotic 15-25m 4-7 storeys
Quercus palustris (pin oak) Exotic 18-22m around 6 storeys
Fraxinus ornus (manna ash) Exotic 15-25m 4-7 storeys
Plagianthus regius (ribbonwood) Native up to 17m around 5 storeys
Cordyline australis (cabbage tree) Native up to 20m 6 storeys
Liquidambar styraciflua (sweetgum) Exotic 15-21m 5-6 storeys
Prunus cerasifera ‘Nigra’ (black cherry plum) Exotic 6-15m 2-4 storeys
Sophora tetraptera (kowhai) Native up to 15m 4 storeys
Quercus robur (English oak) Exotic 15-25m 4-7 storeys
Prunus x Kanzan (Japanese cherry) Exotic 8-12m 2-3 storeys

Furthermore, this list doesn’t include several less common species that play an important role in Auckland’s landscape, such as the London Plane tree, which usually grows to 20-30m (6-8 storeys) or even higher in exceptional circumstances:

Franklin Rd, Freemans Bay: photo credit Craig Flickr photostream

Franklin Rd, Freemans Bay: photo credit Craig

Or the city’s many Norfolk Pines, which often stand out at a distance due to their conical shape and mature height of 50-65m:

norfolk-pine-auckland

Source: Vanilla Rani

Or the spreading pohutukawa, which can grow up to 25m (7 storeys):

Behind the trees

In other words, it seems like we shouldn’t fear for Auckland’s leafiness: We can develop a lot more without eclipsing our trees. But that being said, I would argue that we need to do other things to preserve and improve our streets as we develop… such as planting more street trees.

What do you think about street trees in Auckland?

Development update: December 2016

2016 has been a big year for development, and by “development” I mean the process of getting new homes built, or any other new buildings for that matter.

In the last “development update” post for the year, I wanted to look back at some of the highlights which you might have missed. You can click through to these at the bottom of the RCG Development Tracker page.

  • January focused on retail. “Up until 2007, the retail sector was on a roll, and new shopping centres were being built all over the place. That changed when the recession hit in 2008 [but] 2015-2016 sees the biggest expansion since the GFC”.
  • In March, I covered some research I did with RCG, and some other housing stuff. “In the long term [attached homes will] make up at least 50% of the new homes we build”. I’ve picked that in 2017, we’ll consent more of those than detached houses. Will we get there? Hard to say at this point.
  • June was all about housing. I looked at the pipeline for ‘attached dwellings’, which I’ll update in the new year.
  • July compared construction trends for Auckland and Christchurch
  • August focused on Stonefields, a 2,500-home development. “Looking at Stonefields today, you could be fooled into thinking it’s almost finished, but the reality is it’s not even halfway”.
  • September covered office development across Auckland (most of it is in the city centre)
  • November looked at some of the housing projects which haven’t gone ahead, for various reasons.

 

Tracking housing and other projects

The RCG Development Tracker has an interactive map, now showing 827 projects across the country, including every brownfields Special Housing Area, big growth nodes like Hobsonville Point and Stonefields, plus billions of dollars’ worth of retail, office and accommodation developments.

It also shows Auckland’s Rapid Transit Network – the trains, the Northern Busway, plus some new links which will be built in the next few years such as the City Rail Link (now thankfully underway) and AMETI busway (which continues to languish). The Northwestern busway isn’t on there, as it’s even further away and doesn’t have any funding yet.*

In Auckland, we’re building some of everything. Shopping centres, offices, industrial buildings; hotels and other accommodation; and of course homes of all types and sizes. Apartments, terraces, retirement villages, and “traditional” detached houses (more on those later). Just about everything is booming. This year I’ve written on the tourism boom, migration boom, international education boom and construction crunch (which is really a boom as well).

So those are all positive, I guess, but there are issues that come with them. The big issue being a shortage of housing, with real effects on people’s quality of life. Other issues being high construction costs, and what looks like low wage/ productivity/ real income growth (so we’re not that much better off on a ‘per capita’ basis). Plus, there are some wobbles starting to emerge: house prices flattening or starting to fall, and signs of real problems in the international education industry.

 

How many homes are we really building?

Most months, I put together a graph showing the number of building consents for new homes. This is a good indicator of how many homes are going to be built. By the time a development gets its building consent approved, it already has planning approvals, and the design is pretty much complete. The developer has 12 months to start building (otherwise the consent expires), and almost all consents do eventually turn into homes.

Here’s the latest consents data, which shows that 9,800 new homes were consented in the 12 months to October 2016:

There’s obviously a lag between building consents being approved and the home being completed. Historically, the average lag is about six months, but this lag is getting much longer. Only 7,700 homes were completed in the 12 months to June 2016, but 9,251 homes were consented in 2015, and 7,632 were consented in 2014.

So, consents do get converted into homes, but we’re well behind on doing it.

Why the delays?

There are two reasons for the delays. One is that builders everywhere are busy, so they’re struggling to put enough resources together.

The other reason is that apartments take longer to build than terraces, and terraces take longer to build than detached houses. As Auckland builds a larger share of attached dwellings, the lag between consents and completions would be getting bigger even if builders weren’t flat out. At a guess, we probably need to allow at least two years for apartments from consent to completion, and at least one year for terraces.

So does that mean that we need to build more detached houses if we want to solve Auckland’s housing crisis? Surprisingly, the answer is no – in the long term, we’ll get more homes built if we focus on attached homes, like apartments and terraces.

There’s nothing very traditional about the detached houses being built today. They average a whopping 235 square metres – what is that, six bedrooms? – and they’re often double storey, with complicated shapes compared to the brick-and-tile boxes of the past. Plus, they’re mainly on the edges of the city. Affordable housing they are not.

Apartments and terraces, of course, tend to be much smaller in size. Although they cost a bit more to build on a ‘per square metre’ basis (especially for apartments), they tend to be cheaper overall.

And on that note, have a great summer everyone, take care when getting around and remember to wear sunblock!

 

* Motorways aren’t shown; they get enough attention already. Suffice it to say, the government is widening pretty much any motorway they can, and trying to put new motorways anywhere they can, and the costs are never questioned.

Petrol stations in the city centre

Caltex Fanshawe St, one of only a few petrol stations in Auckland’s city centre, has recently closed. Z Energy, who operate the Z-branded petrol stations and bought Caltex earlier this year, found that the property is worth more as a development site than as a petrol station.

At the start of the sales process, Bob Dey wrote:

Z Energy Ltd reckons it can make at least 4 times as many millions out of selling the Caltex service station site on Fanshawe St in downtown Auckland as its maximum valuation if it carries on selling petrol.

Z is looking at a sale process, and said in its monthly report yesterday on integration of Chevron NZ Ltd’s Caltex & Challenge brands with Z: “Given the location of the site and the absence of other freehold land in the area, Z expects to be able to sell the property to any number of developers for more than $20 million, which is supported by an independent valuation. For use as a service station, the site can only justify a valuation of $5 million, making it economically sensible for Z to divest the property rather than invest in the current earnings stream.

Z were on the money with this – the site went on to sell to Mansons TCLM for $23.3 million, or $6,000 per square metre of land. Pricey.

This leaves five stations in the city centre:

  • BP on Fanshawe St
  • Mobil on Quay St
  • Caltex on Stanley St
  • Z Ronayne St
  • Z Quay St

You could call it six stations if you were feeling generous with the city centre definition, and brought in the Mobil on the corner of K Rd and Ponsonby Rd. Beyond that, you need to look in Ponsonby, Eden Terrace, Newmarket for the next closest petrol stations  – and these are all development hotspots as well.  Petrol stations look pretty underdeveloped by comparison.

By the time it closed in August this year, Caltex Fanshawe St was surrounded by office buildings on three sides (it’s got Victoria Park to the other side). Air New Zealand House was built a decade ago, and recently Datacom House and Fonterra have joined it. The old petrol station site, with a floor area of maybe 400 square metres on a 3,900 square metre piece of land, will most likely end up as a 6-7 storey building, with a floor area of 10,000 square metres plus.

This is the beginning of the end for petrol stations in the city centre: land values are too high for them to be viable in the long term, although some of them will stick around for many years yet while they still have their leases. Poor old Vancouver is in a similar position, and is now down to its last inner-city petrol station.

The stations that remain will have less competition, and may well increase their prices relative to other parts of Auckland. This often happens overseas.

As per previous posts, the overall number of petrol stations in New Zealand has fallen over the last few decades, although it’s levelled out more recently.

petrol-stations-in-new-zealand

For the Auckland city centre, though – and for other ‘high land value’ places as well – the number of stations will keep on trending down.

Australian city centres: a good-news story

Last week I was in Brisbane for work. There seem to be quite a few cranes around the city, including midrise apartment developments creeping along the riverfront to the west of the city centre. The Brisbane CBD proper is still quite sterile at night after all the office workers have left – it’s an absolute pain in the neck to try and find dinner. But it seems to be developing little live-work satellites along the side of the river.

Transportblog kept an occasional eye on development trends over in Australian cities as a sign of what could happen in Auckland. (If urban planning rules and the development sector were geared up for it.)

attached-proportions-Oz-NZ-2015

New data suggests that Australia’s apartment boom is paying off: Prices are levelling off and potentially even falling, and city centres are becoming increasingly vibrant around the clock due to an upsurge in residential population.

However, the odd thing is that this success story is being reported as a bad thing by Australian journalists.

First, Jonathan Pearlman (The Straits Times) warns that an “apartment glut looms in major Aussie cities“:

In the two largest cities of Sydney and Melbourne, high prices and strong demand for properties in the inner city or near railway stations have led to a dramatic shift away from houses to apartments.

The central bank and analysts have warned of a looming “apartment glut” which could deflate the nation’s soaring property market.

Economist Shane Oliver from AMP Capital told The Straits Times that apartment prices in parts of Sydney and Melbourne are likely to fall by about 15 to 20 per cent over the next two years.

The falls could cause a broader decline across the market, even though some areas, especially in Sydney, still have an undersupply of housing.

“We have a huge spike in supply of apartments over the next couple of years, often in fairly concentrated areas,” he said. “It will cause an indigestion problem.”

This seems like an excessively negative spin. Personally, I would describe this as “improving housing affordability” rather than an “indigestion problem”. But regardless of how you describe it, it does seem clear that building lots of apartments can improve affordability. (As it seems to have done in the Auckland city centre.)

Second, Michael Bleby and Nick Lenaghan (AFR) say that “things not so great when you go downtown” in Sydney and Melbourne. Again, this seems like a good-news story being spun as bad news:

Neither Sydney nor Melbourne is the old-fashioned post-5pm ghost town it once was – when Australia’s army of office workers deserted its day time environment en masse for homes in the suburbs.

The country’s two largest CBDs are now thriving residential centres. People walk their dogs, buy their groceries and exercise on streets that just decades ago were limited to suit-wearing, white collar employees.

“You couldn’t have envisaged this, given our suburban history and the fact that the city just died at night,” says Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore. “Australia’s grown up in the last couple of decades.”

That change in Sydney and also further south, in the Victorian capital, marks a huge turnaround. The problem is, it’s too successful. A city can’t thrive on residents alone. It needs workers – preferably highly paid ones – in industries that make the city a place people want to go to.

We’ve also seen this in Auckland. Unprecedented and unexpected growth in the city centre population has led to a downtown revival: More people, more restaurants, more street life. This is a basically good thing, as it means a city where people can get more of the things that they want.

city-centre-population-1996-2016

However, perhaps it’s possible that things can get out of whack – that development can tilt too far in one direction for a while, and “crowd out” other uses. The problem is that the “solutions” proposed in Melbourne and Sydney are likely to make the problem worse. Take this for instance:

In Melbourne, the state government has introduced plot ratios to rein in the extent of development on each site. In a bid to swing the balance back toward commercial space, developers can win additional height if they provide a “public benefit” which, oddly enough, these days includes office space.

[…] The sort of tenants that global cities are seeking to attract – the offices of global corporations that in part sell themselves to their own customers based on their prime global footprint – won’t just swap the CBD for somewhere nearby, Rawnsley says.

“If they can’t find a home in the Sydney CBD or the Melbourne CBD, they’re not going to go Box Hill or Parramatta, they’re going to Singapore or Shanghai or Tokyo or Seattle,” he says.

If a lack of office space in the city centre is driving economic growth and productive firms to locate in other cities instead of Melbourne, restricting the size of buildings in the Melbourne city centre will almost worsen the problem, not improve it.

What do you think of the news from Australian cities?

Development update: November 2016

I’ve just updated the RCG Development Tracker for November – it’s now got almost 800 developments listed, across all property sectors but with a focus on higher density residential.

The ones which didn’t make it

In the last month, we’ve had a bit of media coverage about developments being cancelled. It’s always sad when a project doesn’t proceed, especially for first home buyers who put down deposits, and were looking forward to owning their own home. They’ll get their deposit back, but in the meantime property prices have kept going up, and their plans for moving home are disrupted.

Unfortunately, developments being cancelled (or put on hold, or reworked) is not new. No development is a sure thing, and some won’t go ahead, despite the glitzy marketing and the flowery statements from real estate agents. It’s part of a healthy market where some things work and some things don’t.

CBRE summed this up well when they said that cancellations boil down to “developers launching the wrong project, at the wrong place, at the wrong price”. I’d add “wrong time” to that list – some projects might have worked if they’d been a bit earlier or a bit later – but it underscores that projects can fall over if they don’t have all the right ingredients.

CBRE counted 31 apartment projects which have been shelved since 2013, making about 15% of the total launched since then. Many of these were well covered in the Herald. As a few examples:

  • Flo Avondale. The cancellation of this one sparked the media look at other stalled developments;
  • Springpark, which had a troubled history over the last few years. The property was sold and has now emerged as Richmond, with a different developer and with a different plan for the later stages;
  • Mt Richmond Mews, cancelled earlier this year;
  • Soto Apartments, marketed for a while in 2013-2014;
  • The Grove in Albany. This project was marketed from 2013 onwards, and didn’t actually have resource consent. It was eventually consented for 50 homes, rather than the 65 proposed. The property was sold in 2015 and has re-emerged as Verdant Lane;
  • We’ve also had the case of the Rose Garden Apartments, which are well under construction, although they’re taking much longer to build than initially expected. Here, the original off-the-plan purchasers have been asked to agree to higher prices than what they signed up for, or have their contracts cancelled. It’s a sad turn of events, and can’t be good for buyer confidence. It’s even more surprising in this case, given that Rose Garden is stage one of a multi-stage development;
  • Going back to 2014, there was “Xanadu”, which adopted the unusual marketing technique of being an over-50s complex. A new developer took over, and put together new plans for the site, now known as Union Green.

There are also cases where the developer has had to take a more cautious approach – scaling back their plans, or pulling a project off the market to wait for a better time. Some examples are 88 Broadway and Orakei Bay Village, both by Equinox Group. At 88 Broadway, Equinox was planning to demolish the existing building on Broadway for a large master-planned development. They then decided to retain the building instead, and have refurbished it for offices and retail. At some point, new plans will presumably emerge for the rest of the site.

At Orakei Bay Village, apartment plans have been put on hold for now, and some old buildings are being refurbished for retail tenants. Putting some work into existing buildings is a lower cost, lower risk development option. It’s like a mild form of land banking: the developer gets a bit of a return off the property, but in the long term they’ll expect to demolish the buildings and put something more substantial there. Ponsonby Central and City Works Depot are also examples of this.

New launches

But it’s not all doom and gloom, far from it. New housing projects keep getting announced, and there will be many more to come. Like the ones that came before, developers (and buyers) will have to take their chances as to what goes ahead and what doesn’t.

In many cases, the new launches show the Special Housing Area programme finally bearing fruit – projects like Fabric Of Onehunga, The Victor (Browns Bay) and Station 580 (Kingsland) are all SHAs. They join a large number of SHA projects which are already on the market, with some under construction.

14717041_1116784501742137_7445296830841340974_n

Hypatia, in the second tranche of SHAs and (I think) the first apartment SHA to begin construction, back in Feb 2015. Image source: Bracewell Construction

We’re seeing the first signs of construction on other projects, too. This often starts small, by demolishing existing buildings or doing some earthworks. There’s also a large number of projects which are well underway, unremarked by the media but well covered in places like Skyscrapercity, where builders just keep plugging away towards the eventual completion.

Building consents

As another sign of what’s coming up, here are the latest figures for building consents. The middle of the year was quite flat (i.e. no growth in consents vs 2015), but that’s coming back up again now.

consents-to-sep-2016

In total, 9,960 homes were consented in Auckland in the last 12 months.  That annual figure should hit 10,000 for 2016 – a bit of a benchmark, and also one of the targets in the Auckland Plan.

The Auckland Plan aims for Auckland to build 400,000 homes in 30 years, or about 13,000 per year. However, it recognised that it would take time to reach this level, and assumed that we’d average 10,000 per year in the first decade (2012-2021). We’re finally hitting that, halfway through the decade, so there’s obviously still a lot of scaling up to do. The target for the second decade (2022-2031) is 17,000 homes a year…

Onehunga ceded to the NZTA

We’ve long been concerned about the East-West Link, from the when it was suddenly catapulted out of nowhere from not even being on long term plans straight to being one of the city’s top transport priorities, to effectively becoming one of the governments Roads of National Significance.

From its increasingly eye-watering cost that has ballooned from around $600 million just a few years ago to over $1.8 billion, more than the cost of the Waterview tunnels and without a skerrick of concern from the media, to the fact cheaper and effective options stack up even when compared against those original construction costs.

And of course from when it was planned to plough through houses in Mangere severing communities, to filling in large swathes of the Mangere Inlet, severing pleasant access to the water – unless you like having an expressway next to you – and impacting on future development in and around Onehunga.

And that last point is important Onehunga is an area where Panuku Development Auckland – the city’s urban redevelopment agency who have had huge success with Wynyard Quarter – had picked as one of their key areas to focus on saying:

Onehunga’s strategic location on the edge of the Manukau Harbour, 10km from both Auckland’s CBD and Auckland Airport, makes it ideal to prioritise as a development location.

Panuku Development Auckland will use its land holdings in the area, including the Onehunga Port in the future, to enable developers to build high quality, mixed styles of housing close to the town centre, public transport and the water’s edge.

We’ve raised the issue of the East-West Link and its impacts on development in many posts in the past and now it finally seems to confirmed with the Herald reporting on Friday:

A plan is being drawn up to sell land earmarked for a waterfront development on the shores of the Manukau Harbour for a new motorway.

Political sources have told the Herald that council bosses have dumped a plan for Panuku Development Auckland to buy the Port of Onehunga wharf to develop along the lines of Wynyard Quarter.

Instead, the land will be sold to the Transport Agency for a new $1.8 billion east-west motorway between Onehunga and Mt Wellington. When the agency has used land it needs, it will sell the remainder to Panuku for development.

….

“It’s going to make life easier for the transport agency, which is good for them, but not good for Auckland,” said one source about plans for a waterfront village, apartments and commercial uses at the wharf.

Another source said the deal will “shaft the good folk of Onehunga”.

The plans we’ve seen to date show the impact on the Onehunga port site is significant. It will effectively be an island, cut off from the rest of the area and difficult to access. Furthermore, having trucks and cars thundering along at speed is simply not conducive with trying come up with trying to develop the area into a people friendly space.

East-West - Onehunga-Neilson St

Here’s an image of what the design could look like, also showing significant impact on the Hophua Tuff Ring and areas north of SH2o.

East-West - Neilson St Interchange Recomended Option

It’s crazy that in 2016, given all the knowledge that society has gained in recent decades, that we’re still even contemplating building such a massive road along the foreshore like the NZTA are.

The Herald carries on, quoting Jim Jackson of The Onehunga Enhancement Society (TOES):

Jackson said the port was the key to unlocking the Manukau Harbour and it had to be done properly. The fishing industry was interested in taking the area over and Panuku wanted to cover it in apartments, he said.

About $1.8b was about to be spent on the east-west link and no-one knew how it was going to connect into Onehunga. The transport agency had consent for a $25m pedestrian bridge and no idea how to connect it into Onehunga, plus there were environmental sediment issues, he said.

Panuku did not have the management skills to oversee development of the port area, said Jackson, who said he had only just been informed of the plan by transport agency highways boss Tommy Parker.

Wait, so the people behind the internationally award winning redevelopment of the Wynyard Quarter have no clue about redeveloping a port area? TOES were key in pushing for the great new foreshore redevelopment on the western side of Onehunga which they pushed as mitigation for the motorway being built through the area decades ago. Unfortunately, the experience seems to have affected them as they have been supporters of the East-West project in the hope getting more mitigation out of it to fix the trashing of the inlet in the past. Pushing for a motorway just so you can fix environmental issues is a completely backwards approach.

Onehunga Foreshore Development

The new Onehunga Foreshore

And TOES solution for the East-West is even crazier than the NZTA’s, calling for an even bigger road complete with tunnels and new bridges across the harbour.

East-West Business Assciation proposal

Given everything it almost feels like it would be more honest if we just went for the Dutch solution, close the inlet off completely and pump it out and create 5.8km² of developable land. Note: I’m not actually saying this should happen.

Of course all of this new roading development is at a time when many people and officials believe two transformational changes could revolutionise transport in the next few decades.

  1. Dynamic road pricing that can be used to ensure existing roads stay clear and likely avoiding the need to build many of the big roading projects currently on the plans. What’s more some of the biggest proponents of road pricing in NZ are the business and infrastructure lobby groups who have been key in pushing the East-West Link.
  2. Driverless vehicles are likely to be adopted by the freight industry faster than other areas involving transport and if the hype is correct, will remove many of the barriers and costs associated with moving goods thanks in part to being more efficient. That could render investments like pointless.

At what point to we stop ceding the city to the whims of the NZTA?

Farnham Street residents looking at each other down the barrel of a gun

Caution: this post contains references to John Farnham.

I was updating the Development Tracker recently, and added another one to the list – 9 Farnham Street. It hasn’t made it off the starting blocks yet, despite a couple of attempts.

In 2008, and perhaps for some time before that, 9 Farnham Street was being advertised for a five-storey building, with three floors of office and two penthouse apartments:

9 Farnham Streetview

Source: Google Streetview

The sign was still up in 2009, but sometime after that it was taken down. The GFC put a dampener on new development in a lot of places.

In April 2013, resource consent was granted for 14 apartments, but – shockingly – only 10 carparks. This raised the ire of some local residents, who had their story told in the Herald on 1st April, 2014, the best day of the year for airing public grievances. They decided that they were not gonna sit in silence, and nor were they gonna live with fear.

The three local residents were able to bolster their group with two elected representatives, who help to add gravitas to the obligatory photo of everyone standing in front of the site looking concerned, although sadly only one person out of five had their arms crossed.

A Parnell group is upset about approval for a big new apartment building, saying office workers’ cars already clog their street.

Farnham St residents Jill Tonks, Rosa Volz and Paul O’Connor are angry that a six-storey 14-unit block with only 10 carparks has been permitted to go ahead at 9 Farnham St after Auckland Council approved it on a non-notified basis.

Councillor Mike Lee and Waitemata Local Board member Christopher Dempsey are also concerned.

The article doesn’t specifically say what has the elected representatives “concerned” – maybe the non-notification, maybe the lack of parking, maybe the idea that anyone could put up a building on this pristine site. I’ll simply note that Mike Lee has frequently taken issue with plans or policies for new housing (to be fair, so have many other local representatives, although not to the same extent. Hopefully in the post-Unitary Plan era, we can start to move past this).

Anyway, if it’s the lack of parking that has Mike concerned, I hope that there is much more to concern him in the future. I see the number of new developments being marketed with few (or even no) carparks per unit as a positive sign, and I mean this in the nicest, wanting-to-make-society-as-well-off-as-possible kind of way.

Unfortunately, nothing has quite happened with this development yet. It seems like the apartments were on sale from Nov 2014 – Jul 2015, and were then taken back off the market (the real estate ad says the building has 18 carparks, funnily enough).

534058E

The proposed building which was marketed over 2014-2015.

The site changed hands in March this year, and no action since.

Unfortunately, the nature of our local democracy means that if you’re an existing resident with a strong current attachment to the area, you’re the voice. The potential residents – who, I should point out, are all someone’s daughter, all someone’s son – don’t get much chance to say whether they’d like to live there.

Breathing new life into Aotea

Some good news last week with the announcement that the Council’s former Civic Administration Building – which was given Category A heritage status under the Unitary Plan – will be restored. To make things better, it will be joined by a number of new buildings filling in what is currently a dead zone surrounding it.

civic-administration-building-redevelopment

The iconic Civic Administration Building in Aotea Square will be restored and the surrounding area developed under a private sector proposal that will breathe life into a key part of our city centre.

The city’s urban development agency Panuku Development Auckland has selected Tawera Group to restore the Category A heritage building after an international tender process.

Tawera’s Civic Quarter proposal features residential apartments in the upper floors with food and beverage facilities on the ground floor of the existing building. There will also be a new apartment building on the Mayoral Drive corner, a new boutique hotel on Mayoral Drive and a building featuring a Whare Tapere performance space fronting Aotea Square.

Auckland Mayor Len Brown says Civic Quarter shows what is possible if we make the most of the opportunities we have with heritage buildings.

“With the population in the central city expected to double in the next 30 years, it’s essential we develop new accommodation options to make this a liveable city. This scheme is a fantastic way to achieve this. It’s all about making the most of the land and opportunities we have in a growing city.”

The mayor says Civic Quarter will bring a new edge to Aotea Square, with the hotel as well as the food and beverage offerings in the development adding vitality to this corner of Auckland’s arts precinct.

“And for Aucklanders the best news is that this partnership with a well-respected private sector developer will come at no cost to ratepayers.”

Panuku Project Director Clive Fuhr says after an extensive tender process it’s pleasing to announce the plans for a building that has remained largely empty since being vacated by the council.

“It was important to provide a viable commercial opportunity that would enable the restoration of a heritage building, the provision of more housing and the revitalisation of this precinct.”

Fuhr says Tawera was the lead tenderer from an Expressions of Interest and Request for Proposals process that attracted global interest and some impressive detailed submissions.

The Tawera proposal was selected with guidance from a panel of urban design experts and heritage advisors. Mana whenua were also part of the selection process, ensuring the Te Aranga Maori Design principles were incorporated.

“It was important we found the right partner to ensure both the heritage features of the building are protected and that it tells a strong Maori story. We were very impressed with Tawera who recently won the Property Council award for their Hopetoun Residences,” says Fuhr.

“Their scheme certainly gives effect to the objectives in the recently adopted Aotea Quarter Framework Plan.”

Tawera principal John Love says his team is excited to be part of this important development for Auckland.

“Civic Quarter is the kind of regeneration project that has won Tawera Group awards in the past.  It will blend an iconic Auckland landmark with cutting edge design ensuring that the Aotea Quarter becomes a must visit destination for all.”

Auckland Council Heritage Manager Noel Reardon, whose team was involved in the selection process, says the Civic was the city’s tallest building when it was completed in 1966 and it went on to become an icon of local government.

“It’s great news to see such an iconic building being restored. The council’s heritage team will work closely with the developers to ensure the heritage features are retained and restored.”

The next steps in the development will be for Tawera to work through the resource and building consents, particularly in terms of the refurbishment works.  Building is expected to start in mid-2017 and take three years.

This shows the expected layout of the buildings that are planned

civic-administration-building-redevelopment-plan

As a comparison, most of this space is currently carparks and largely unused dead space

civic-administration-building-redevelopment-plan-current

Here’s a video of what’s proposed, some of what’s proposed looks a little awkward but hopefully that can improve as the design evolves. I also hope a lot of care is taken with the design of those shared lanes. I do like that this part of Mayoral Dr will finally have some activation but that will also mean we need to ensure Mayoral Dr isn’t just left as a racetrack.

One thing that also struck me was how in some ways the Whare Tapere is a modern take on Tibor Donner’s original design for the area which included annexes on either side of the Civic Admin Building, as can be seen here. You can also see that image doesn’t include Mayoral Dr which was bulldozed through the area.

September 16 AT Board Meeting

The monthly Auckland Transport Board meeting is on again next week so I’ve take a read through the main reports to pull out the bits that interest me.

Closed Session Agenda

Some of my thoughts about them in italics.

Items for Approval/Decision

  • CRL – PTA & QS Contracts
  • Road Stopping
  • Execution of Deed of Lease of Land
  • Route Protection for Roading Projects
  • CPO – Surrender of LRT Easements – Britomart was designed so it could also have light rail but our existing network has been too successful so is not a possibilty now
  • Transport for Future Urban Growth (TFUG) Programme Business Case – Business cases are now needed to support all of the projects needed to support the sprawl enabled as part of the Unitary Plan
  • AT designations for the Unitary Plan

Items for Noting

  • Deep Dive – Rail Infrastructure
  • MRT/Light Rail Update – I see AT are already using the Mass Rapid Transit name from ATAP
  • Rail Development
  • Bus Services March Capacity – A hint about what this is later in the post.
  • ATAP Update

Business Report

Things that interest me in the order they appear in the report.

Albany Highway – This project is nearly complete and expected to be completed in October

Glen Innes/Tamaki Shared Path – Section 1 is due for completion at the end of October. Section 2 and 3 got resource consent and section 3 will start construction in October

Franklin Rd – Works are now starting on services, although there will be no works around Christmas when the annual lights are on. The actual road works start in March next year. They say the design of the catenary lighting system has been completed and materials ordered. The lights will have a clearance above the ground of 7-8m so shouldn’t have issues with overheight trucks. They also say the lighting system is estimated to cost $900,000. I wonder what an aspiring Councillor standing on a platform of capping rates might say about that.

Franklin Rd Impression

Newmarket Crossing (Sarawia St) – AT are hoping for mediation with the Cowie St Residents in early October and if that fails an environment court hearing before the end of the year.

Parnell Station – Kiwirail have building consent and works are due to start on the foundations so the old Newmarket railway station can be moved to the site. AT also say they’re working on the design of ticket gates but that they won’t be in place in time for opening due to long lead times for them. They’re also working on getting a footpath connection down through Carlaw Park finished in time for when the station opens in March 2017 (with limited service).

Parnell pic June15

Manukau Bus Station – AT will be issuing the construction contract early next month and say the station is due to be open in early 2018, this appears to have been delayed as previously they were saying late 2017. Oddly later in the same report it once again says late 2017.

Manukau Bus Station 1

Otahuhu Interchange – This is on track to open on 29 October, just before the new network goes live. Ticket gates will be installed in the second quarter 2017 “due to a delay in receipt of the gates from the supplier

Otahuhu Interchange Sep-16 1

Bus Lanes – AT are planning on building 19.1km of bus lanes this financial year but later on they say 26km is planned. This image is from August but it still accurate.

2016-08 - Bus lane Programme

AT Parking App – Earlier this year we saw a glimpse of a mobile app to pay for parking (from 3:05). It’s currently in a live trial till the end of the month and is expected to be launched later this year

AT Park is an account based parking payment system, which will go live later this year. Customers can pay for parking directly from their phone without using a parking meter, significantly improving customer convenience through mobile payment and parking location/availability maps. Other features of the new service are: start and stop a parking session with an interactive voice recording, start stop session with texting and also with the call centre. This innovation will enable customers to pay with ease and therefore increase compliance across the network

PT Services

Supergold Cards – AT are going to transition blue HOP card holders to gold HOP cards and a campaign for it is due in November

Ferries – AT currently has a tender out for the non-commercial ferry routes – like they’re doing with buses. I understand this will likely include some additional services on some routes too. Interestingly this will also include Stanley Bay services as Fullers has advised they’re not going to run it commercially anymore. This will leave only Devonport and Waiheke as commercial routes exempt from PTOM contracts.

March Madness – It appears AT might have finally got the message about March Madness.

Every March there is a spike in patronage which results in insufficient capacity on main corridors. In order to provide sufficient capacity and an enhanced customer experience for next March, new timetables and capacity increases have been developed for main corridors. The expectation is that no customer will have to wait for more than 10 minutes (depending on advertised frequency) to be able to board a bus. This will see an approx. +6.6% peak only bus capacity increase implemented progressively between November and February.

Double Decker NEX – The Northern Express goes from strength to strength and now Ritchies are boosting capacity again with the number of double decker buses used to operate the service going from 18 to 29 in October. That will leave just 2 standard buses at peak times and all off peak services will be run by double deckers. Extra trips are also being added in Jan & Feb ahead of March.

Speeding up trains – AT say a reduction in turn back times at Papakura from late October will free up one train set enabling them to boost another peak Southern Line service in the morning and afternoon. A good example of why they need to focus on speeding up our trains.

New Network – The new bus network in South Auckland is due to go live on 30 October while new buses for the new operators have been arriving. Ritchies/Murphys buses have been arriving from China while the Go Bus buses being built mostly here but also in Malaysia have been arriving.

Station Gates – In addition to completing designs for gating Henderson, Manurewa, Middlemore and Papatoetoe, AT say they’re also now planning and designing gates for Glen Innes, Papakura and Parnell.

Click and Collect – A 6-month trial got underway this week allowing for deliveries to made to one of four AT Metro locations and one park & ride (Orakei I believe). This is positive to see and I only wonder why they didn’t trial it years ago.

Forward Programme

An indication as to what’s coming up to the board and board committees in the next month so an indication of things to keep an eye out for.

  • Northern RTN Programme Business Case
  • Roads & Streets Framework
  • Clonbern Road Carpark Redevelopment proposal
  • Bus Patronage Analysis
  • Train Capacity
  • PTOM West Tenders – the preferred tenderers were announced last week.
  • Manukau Road T3 Operational Impacts
  • Future of HOP
  • Digital / Technology impact on transport

Anything you’ve seen in the reports that I’ve missed?