Britomart has been an outstanding success, both from the train station – which is way ahead of patronage projections – and the redevelopment of the precinct around the station which has turned the area from one of the most run down and avoided into one of Auckland’s best urban destinations. That redevelopment has been done by Cooper & Co and has included the renovation of 18 heritage buildings as well as the construction of new ones such as the EY and Westpac buildings.
While much has been done, what a lot of people often don’t realise is that the redevelopment is still far from complete. One particularly large change will see a new buildings built on the central site bounded by Commerce, Galway, Gore and Tyler Streets. The area is currently home to a series of low rise buildings housing the likes of Ortolana and which were only intended to be there for the short to medium term.
I’ve been hearing rumours for a while now that Cooper & Co were keen to get under-way with the Central Building once again to tie in with the CRL – another case where the CRL is driving commercial development. Yesterday we learned that not only is that the case but also Cooper & Co have put a proposal to council to develop an office town on the publicly owned land at the back of Britomart that is currently home to the glass box extension of the former Chief Post Office and that odd little carpark. The current plans by Auckland Transport are to use it for a temporary entrance to the station while the CPO is closed while the tunnel is dug out beneath it but what happens after that work is finished is unknown.
Cooper & Co say they’re currently working on the master planning for the central and western areas of the Britomart precinct and obviously see an opportunity to further increase the amount of development planned given the success of what’s been done so far. In addition they are bringing it up now as any works needed to support the development of the site could be done at the same time as Britomart was undergoing the extensive work that will be happening for the CRL. Some of their suggested changes are
- Strengthening foundation work so as to enable possible construction of a new commercial building to the east of the CPO building utilising the air space above the Transport Centre.
- Creating a large new concourse hall for the Transport Centre, possibly linking with the CPO building.
- Opening up the western face of the CPO building.
- Creating more public spaces.
- Increasing the capacity and operating efficiency of the Transport Centre and reinforcing its position as Auckland’s “Grand Central Station”.
Their ideas for the site are shown in a presentation to the council’s Development Committee today. Their potential master plan shows a number of buildings on the central site around a square and four buildings along the edges of the site behind the CPO. You can also see they are planning a building for the site currently home to Britomart Country Club. I’m also guessing this was drawn up before the sale of QE2 Square and I wonder if that had an impact on their thinking about the potential for publicly owned land.
For the Western site those four buildings are actually low rise retail stores above which an office building would float creating an elevated atrium three to four storeys high, this is shown in the image below. You’ll also notice there’s another set of escalators/stairs down to the middle concourse level, I believe they or something similar go in as part of the temporary building during the enabling works.
Here’s some concepts of how they think it might look, complete with ghost people.
While only a concept it certainly seems like it could be an interesting building. The more I look at it the more I also think that removing that leaky glass box and opening up the back of the CPO could be quite nice. Of course in reality buildings aren’t quite as transparent and so as always better details of the design key.
There are also a few images of the proposed central building(s)
I realise these are only concepts however one thing I did notice is that there are none of the volcanic cone features shown. I’m not sure if that’s deliberate or just an oversight. It also appears that that they want to see Gore and Commerce St as shared spaces given the lack of road delineation in the images. That is also shown in the aerial view of the precinct below. Just how practical that is isn’t known as we know from CRL information that buses will still be passing through the area – particularly on Commerce St.
Overall it’s an interesting proposal and we could do with some bolder architecture. I think should definitely be considered among a mix of other options for that site. I also think that if the council/AT end up agreeing to this and it requires reinforced foundations that AT should also consider if it’s worth changing the platform layout of the station. We already see today that the platforms at the station struggle hopelessly even with today’s volumes, let alone what might happen once the CRL goes live.