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Auckland’s Chief Economist speaks up for future generations – Auckland needs to grow “up and out”

Auckland Council’s Chief Economist Geoff Cooper was in the paper on Thursday with a few interesting arguments about urban planning. The article is refreshing because in it Cooper challenges a few of the many sacred cows in the debate over growth and housing affordability.

In particular, Cooper discusses the “up versus out” narrative that has been wrapped around Auckland’s urban growth. In recent months, for example, both the New Zealand Initiative and consultancy NZIER have published research papers arguing that Auckland should open up greenfield land to improve housing affordability.

Cooper argues that these analyses have failed to notice the fact that the proposed Unitary Plan already does this:

Despite this complexity, discussion on Auckland’s urban policy is often reduced to “up” (intensification) or “out” (sprawl).

This simplification overlooks three key issues — Auckland Council’s proposed urban limit policy, the policies underlying a compact city, and the political economy of urban policy.

The proposed plan vastly extends the urban limit, aiming for an average of seven years infrastructure-ready land supply available at all times. Once implemented, around 20 per cent more urban zoned land will be available.

This is enough for up to 76,000 new dwellings (roughly equivalent to all of Hamilton).

Calls for more land supply miss the solutions being implemented.

In my view, a policy of greenfields growth could result in not insubstantial economic costs. These risks are discussed in a range of new studies,evidence which present evidence suggesting outlying locations are not necessarily more affordable once transport costs are taken into account (often difficult to do in advance). So while house prices might be cheaper, the costs of getting around can offset those savings. Not to mention the external costs of congestion wider society must bear from more development in peripheral urban locations.

On the other hand, Cooper also critiques debates over residential intensification. He points out that removing *restrictions* on urban intensification development, so as to enable more compact and diverse forms of housing, doesn’t amount to “forcing intensification upon communities”, as some have claimed. Instead, the Unitary Plan tends to remove barriers that prevent people from living at higher densities in locations that provide the attributes they seek, such as amenity and accessibility. Cooper comments:

Proposed policies for a compact city are also misunderstood.

Compact living policies are about creating choices, by reducing existing regulations that stop people living in higher density areas, when they want to.

The inherited planning framework by Auckland Council is heavily biased towards the “quarter acre section” through rigid regulations. This creates a push for urban sprawl.

The city’s rules prevent the supply of housing people want in the areas they want to live in – close to the city, with good transport and other amenities.

These preferences are clearly shown in soaring house prices on Auckland’s isthmus.

The draft plan was designed to create greater housing choice. But this has been scaled back significantly during public consultation.

Residents want to preserve their lot, but it comes at a cost to future Aucklanders. New height limits have been introduced in many suburbs, while existing height limits have been tightened, as have density constraints which means it will be harder to gain access to attractive suburbs.

The important thing Cooper highlights here is how policies that restrict housing  supply in desirable areas come with a significant cost. There’s a wide range of international evidence suggesting restrictive planning regulations, such as minimum parking regulations, density controls, and building height limits, tend to raise the cost of housing. A 2002 paper by Edward Glaeser and Joseph Gyourko, for example, found American cities with more restrictive zoning were less affordable:

The bulk of the evidence marshaled in this paper suggests that zoning, and other land use controls, are more responsible for high prices where we see them. There is a huge gap between the price of land implied by the gap between home prices and construction costs and the price of land implied by the price differences between homes on 10,000 square feet and homes on 15,000 square feet. Measures of zoning strictness are highly correlated with high prices… [I]f policy advocates are interested in reducing housing costs, they would do well to start with zoning reform.

New evidence from Auckland suggests that our planning regulations may have a similar effect, driving up housing costs above construction costs. While the proposed Unitary Plan loosens some regulations, it arguably doesn’t go far enough to truly improve housing choice and housing affordability. Indeed, in some locations it proposes much more onerous regulations than exist under existing district plans, such as on minimum size requirements for apartment. Such requirements have the potential to exacerbate housing costs for the households that can least afford it.

Finally, Cooper also highlights the sometimes perverse nature of the political economy of urban planning. As many people have pointed out, planning regulations have significant effects on intergenerational equity. While restrictive regulations might be good for existing homeowners, they’re extremely bad for new homeowners – and by extension future generations.

It seems fairly obvious to me that if a city is systematically unwilling to allow new housing supply to be built in desirable, accessible areas, then skilled young people will increasingly face a Hobson’s choice: Either pay too much for housing in an accessible place, or pay too much for transport in a cheaper fringe location. And in the long run, we can expect these people to choose another city to live in. Indeed, unaffordable cities place will tend to be disadvantaged in the increasingly global competition for skilled young labour. In this other recent article Cooper actually makes this very point: Auckland competes for people, business, and capital more with Brisbane. Sydney and Melbourne than with other places in New Zealand.

Unfortunately our political system seems especially bad at solving the intergenerational problems even though this is arguably one of its core functions.

This Government’s inability/unwillingness to make headway on carbon emissions being the prime example. As a young Aucklander with many Kiwi friends living overseas. I am fairly sure that the people who will benefit from better housing policy are, for the most part, not voting in elections or going along to consultation meetings. Many more may have not even been born yet. It is these voices that are so often not heard, nor even acknowledged, in the debates on the Unitary Plan.

Responsibility for this issue lies jointly with our political representatives and mainstream media outlets, who tend to lack the courage to push back on even the most blatant self-interested objections to urban development.

Ultimately I think it’s really useful to have Auckland Council’s Chief Economist speaking out on these issues and highlighting that Auckland needs to both grow “up and out”. Now it’d be nice if more people at a central  government level started to champion the same issues.

More on Wynyard Quarter housing

As Matt wrote on Saturday, the Auckland Council is going to be partnering with Willis Bond & Co on new homes at Wynyard Quarter. I thought I’d look at a couple of other interesting aspects of the announcement.

Bob Dey has written some good commentary here, including an interview with the managing director of Willis Bond & Co, Mark McGuinness.  Bob notes that there’s a range of housing typologies, from apartments all the way down to (potentially) duplexes, with the overall development being medium density, and homes of up to four bedrooms. That’s a positive step, in a city centre which still has too few larger, family-sized dwellings.

Wynyard Quarter Residential 1

Parking provision is kept fairly low, averaging 1.2 spaces per dwelling, although I’m not quite sure if this refers to Willis Bond’s concepts or the maximum planning ratios for the site. As Mark McGuinness told Bob Dey,

“Most people in the Wynyard Quarter will not need 2 cars all the time. It’s one of those places where you can genuinely walk. If you have that amenity, walking can become quite addictive – I’d use a car 2 days/week now.

“Over time, people will get weaned off car ownership. You need housing in the right location, amenity around it, which the Wynyard Quarter has, and you need reasonable proximity to work, which the quarter delivers like very [missing word here?] places do.”

It’s great to hear that kind of thing coming from a business leader, especially that first paragraph. Of course, 1.2 cars per home is probably more than we’d like to see, and it’s higher than average for the city centre, but the homes will probably be targeted more towards families with kids, and they’ll be larger than typical apartments. There may also be a bit of against-the-flow commuting. No doubt the market will dictate where things end up, and perhaps we’ll see less than 1.2 cars per home when everything’s complete. By comparison, the nearby Beaumont Quarter seems to be at around 1.3 cars per home, based on 2013 census data.

Given that the Auckland Council will retain ownership of the land under these new homes,  I’m pleased that they’ll allow the ground rent to be paid up front, reducing the uncertainty around rent reviews down the track. I wrote a bit more about this in RCG’s newsletter, here, and also noted:

Another innovation is that carparks in the Wynyard Quarter residential area won’t be associated with individual apartments. They’ll be owned by the body corporate, and presumably rented out to the residents at whatever they’re are willing to pay. As Bob Dey points out, this avoids the problem of spaces being wasted because the owner doesn’t actually need them, and the hassle in trying to buy or sell them separately. The end result is that fewer parking spaces should be needed, and this could potentially bring costs down.

There will be around 500-600 homes built as part of this development agreement. By comparison, there are around 375 in the Viaduct Harbour, and 230 in Lighter Quay (which will eventually blend into Wynyard Quarter to some extent). That’s probably a bit lower than envisaged in the council’s Waterfront Plan, which targets “a residential population of 2,500–4,000″ in the long term. However, there will probably be some other homes built as Wynyard continues to develop – Waterfront Auckland refer to this agreement as “the first residential precinct in Auckland’s revitalised Wynyard Quarter”.

In my opinion, the things that make Wynyard such an appealing place are its waterfront location and its public spaces. Those are already things that draw tens of thousands of people. Add to this a pretty significant workforce – which could be 12,000 to 15,000 in the long term – and the other drawcards still to be built, such as the 5-star hotel, the theatre, the park at the northern point, and these homes don’t have too much work to do, in terms of activating or anchoring the area. They can just be great places to live, which it looks like they will be.

Wynyard Quarter Residential Developer announced

Waterfront Auckland have announced who will build the new residential “Urban Village” in the Wynyard Quarter.

One of New Zealand’s leading developers, Willis Bond & Co, has been confirmed as the successful candidate to build the first residential precinct in Auckland’s revitalised Wynyard Quarter.

Willis Bond will build 500 to 600 homes as part of a mixed use development in the centre of Wynyard Quarter, which will also incorporate 48,000 m2 of new office space and a five star hotel. Willis Bond, has a strong track record of delivering large-scale, high quality developments in urban and waterfront settings and has also recently been appointed as the residential developer of 4.7 hectares at Hobsonville Point.

The appointment follows an 18 month competitive tender process led by Waterfront Auckland, the landowner and masterplanner of the development, which canvassed over 20 proposals from local and international parties.

John Dalzell, Chief Executive for Waterfront Auckland says the quality of Willis Bond’s design and development process and its strong track record made it a clear cut choice.

“We want to do things differently with this next stage of development in Wynyard Quarter – to create a new residential community which is a model of medium density development demonstrating the highest standards of design and amenity.”

“We have selected a developer who is willing to embrace the design and high sustainability standards we have set. Willis Bond got that from the start with an outstanding bid and a professional and enthusiastic approach since, which indicates they’re committed to our aspirations in a diverse range of residential units.”

Willis Bond managing director Mark McGuinness said his team was excited by the opportunity to contribute to what is New Zealand’s largest urban regeneration outside Christchurch:

“Willis Bond focuses on developing mixed-use projects of scale that represent best-in-class development opportunities. Wynyard Quarter clearly meets these criteria and is an exciting project in an unrivalled location.”

Willis Bond is partnering with three of New Zealand’s leading architects across five residential sites to develop a mixture of apartments, townhouses and duplexes, available in various sizes and at a range of price points.

To meet the standards set by Waterfront Auckland’s Sustainability Development Framework the homes will be required to achieve a minimum 7 Homestar rating with provision for solar power and solar hot water heating panels.

Auckland Mayor Len Brown has welcomed the appointment of residential developer for a key part of the city.

“As we look to Auckland’s future, we need more examples of high quality medium density living like that planned for Wynyard Quarter. It will mean less pressure on our transport infrastructure and the added vibrancy created by a permanent residential population will only strengthen our city centre.”

The first homes in the central part of Wynyard Quarter are expected to be available to purchase off the plans by late 2014 and once completed, the development is expected to house more than 1,100 residents.

And here are some artist impressions that have been created.

Wynyard Quarter Residential 1

The development is mostly centred around Daldy St and the Linear Park that has recently been created

Wynyard Quarter Residential 2

In between the apartments will be an east west laneway

Wynyard Quarter Shopping

And here’s the location for those not familiar with the area.

Wynyard Quarter Residential Location

This is a great step forward for the Wynyard Quarter.

Parking building to get makeover and apartments

It looks like we will be able to say goodbye to ugly – but unfortunately not the parking.

One of Auckland’s ugliest carparking buildings which its owner describes as “an eyesore” is to get a makeover and have apartments built on top.

Luke Manson of rich-list family developer Mansons TCLM, said the Auckland Council had granted resource consent for the project at 206 Victoria St West, opposite Victoria Park and next to the Victoria Park Markets.

Mansons will develop 39 two and three-bedroom 80sq m to 115sq m apartments, and instead of selling them, will rent them.

This is good because that carparking building really is horrid.

Victoria St carpark

However we won’t be able to say goodbye to it altogether, in fact there will be even more carparks (presumably for the apartments).

“We have named the development The Boutique,” he said. “At this stage it is too early to confirm rents, but we will be looking for long-term leases for each unit.”

The carpark has 200 spaces. Mansons will add an extra 30, but will disguise the building with an aluminium wrap.

“The car park, which is an eyesore, will be removed from view and beautified with screening and planting of trees,” Manson said.

Steel beams would be lifted on to the top of the existing building to create an extra three levels at one point and five levels at another point.

“Because the site is a gateway corner location, we are getting extra levels,” he said.

The Boutique

It’s good to get more development but it does look funny sticking apartments on a massive podium of parking (the same thing is happening in New Lynn too). Mansons push the fact that most of their recent buildings have been green star rated and I wonder if they’ll push that angle with this one too. It would be a bit hard though with the amount of parking on site.

Still I’d rather have parking in this building than having Auckland Transport suggest something stupid like putting a massive underground carpark under Victoria Park.

Developing Eden Park?

Should parts of Eden Park be developed? That’s a possibility the herald has uncovered.

The No 2 ground and cricket pitch at Eden Park will be replaced with residential and commercial buildings of up to nine storeys, according to documents obtained by the Weekend Herald.

The Eden Park Trust Board, weighed down with about $50 million of debt and struggling to pay for future repairs and capital works, is eyeing the No 2 ground as a financial saviour.

The idea is to follow the likes of the home of rugby at Twickenham in London, which have hotels and other operations within their grounds to generate extra income.

The Eden Park board has withheld the latest development plans while the Auckland Council stitches together a stadium strategy.

Part of the strategy involves moving domestic and test cricket to Western Springs, which would free up the No 2 ground for development.

And later on they provide more detail on what could happen

On the Walters Rd side of the No 2 ground, buildings will be no higher than four storeys, and a 40m buffer has been left between buildings and Reimers Rd. The buffer will be used to bus fans to and from the ground.

Site coverage varies from 35 per cent of the four-storey limit fronting Sandringham Rd to 75 per cent for the nine-storey limit against the West Stand.

The plans are outlined in a submission to Auckland Council’s draft Unitary Plan, a 30-year blueprint for the Super City. The submission is also understood to call for doubling the number of night games, holding concerts at Eden Park, and extending night-time hours to attract games such as State of Origin rugby league.

The submission follows an earlier proposal for a range of uses on the No 2 ground, including residential, accommodation, offices, takeaway foods and retail, which was rejected by the council. Said Dr Casey: “If Eden Park develop the No 2 ground, it will have incredible consequences for both residents and business.”

It’s an interesting suggestion. Eden Park is of course right next to the Kingsland station and after the CRL the area will have superb access to the city centre and beyond. In fact it would possibly be one of the best connected locations in Auckland. From a transport and land use point of view it couldn’t get much better.

Eden Park No 2

The biggest concern I would have is that if it was developed that new residents would then start complaining about the impact generated by being right next to a stadium.

Naturally some in the local community seem very against it.

Eden Park Residents’ Association president Mark Donnelly said the ground was already at the maximum level of activities and impacts that the local area could be expected to bear.

He called on the council to strongly support the status quo for the No 2 ground as open space.

Personally I think this is an idea worth exploring, what do you think

Orakei Point development given approval

The long running battle to develop land at Orakei Point has finally come to an end with the plan change enabling the development finally operative. Bob Dey reports:

Plan change 260 for Orakei Point – now Orakei Bay Village – won its final approval to be made operative on Tuesday, completing an often acrimonious regulatory journey that began in 2006.

The plan change was originally sought from Auckland City Council by Tony Gapes (Redwood Group Ltd) to develop 5.9ha around the Orakei railway station, at the foot of Remuera, for an upmarket community of up to 1600 people.

Well placed Remuera locals fought the proposal and, in 2009, then-mayor John Banks took the masterplan to a community meeting, then made it a council-sponsored plan change. The plan change rezones 4.7ha to a site-specific mixed-use zone and the remaining 1.2ha to open space 2, enabling a masterplanned “seaside village”. Provisions were structured so the site would be developed as a comprehensive whole – except that, when it was publicly notified in January 2010, Mr Gapes didn’t control the whole site.

The new Auckland Council approved the plan change with conditions in April 2011, but 3 appellants took it to the Environment Court. The council’s Auckland development committee approved the plan change on Tuesday after the court resolved the appeals.

I’ve long thought that the site was ideal for development as it is fairly close to town with excellent amenities including of course an existing train station which will only become more and more useful and frequent with electrification and then the CRL. As part of the development, the railway lines and station will be capped. I’m sure Auckland Transport will work with the developers to make the station something special and unique. There is also to be space for a third track through the development.

Orakei Point - May 2013

In the report to the councils development committee it says.

The overall intention of the plan change is that a development lid be placed over the railway corridor at Orakei Point, and the covered area be utilised for roads, plazas, commercial and residential use with open space and walkways around the periphery. Key features of the notified plan change were:

  • provision of up to 84,000m2 gross floor area of mixed use development, comprising 64,000m2 of residential (about 700 apartments), a maximum of 10,000m2 each for retail and office activities, and a maximum of 1,750 parking spaces
  • maximum building heights, public open space areas, and special tree protection areas
  • assessment criteria particularly focused on high quality urban design, connections with public transport, open space and sustainability
  • a comprehensive package of development controls to limit the overall height and bulk of the built form to within defined envelopes, and to ensure specific features on the Master Plan are achieved
  • a staging table to secure certain public amenities and infrastructure prior to development of each precinct
  • four overlay plans applying development controls i.e. maximum heights, site intensity and staging, veranda cover, and traffic and pedestrian links, to the land.

Following on from the appeals and environment court action there have been some changes to the original decision by the council. They include:

  • a revised masterplan, with smaller buildings, a secondary road network added to the main link road, larger shared spaces and plazas, and increased veranda cover along key pedestrian connections
  • amended order of staging of the development precincts, bring forward a new railway station building and plaza in the first stage of development. These changes do not trigger the need for additional traffic and road improvements
  • a requirement to vest an esplanade reserve with a minimum depth of 20m in Council Item 10 Auckland Development Committee 11 March 2014
  • reverse sensitivity covenants, and new internal noise standards for buildings to mitigate the adverse effects of rail noise
  • greater protection for trees within the special tree protection areas by way of resource consent for works which will result in removal of more than 5% of the canopy of any tree, or the removal of three or more trees, or the significant adverse effects on three or more trees.

The developers have already been selling apartments and terraced houses based on the environment court decision, here are some of their marketing images of what the developments will look like.

More apartments added to our Development Tracker

Some new additions to our development tracker.

City: Nicolas St Apartments – 60 Apartments

Another addition to the Hobson/Nelson cluster of apartments. This one seems to be on a site that has entrances from both Hobson St and Nicolas St. The development has two towers in it.

Nicolas St Apatments

While it’s called Nicolas St, this image is of the development from Hobson St.

City: Summit on Symonds – 45 apartments

What appears to be a conversion and extension of the existing building on the corner of K Rd and Symonds St. Like The Xanadu, this one appears to be targeting baby boomers. In the image below it also suggests that a separate building (the green one) will be built) as part of this.

Summit on Symonds

Mt Eden: Mt Eden Fiore – 120 apartments

This appears to be proposed for the large empty site currently used as a carpark on the Northern side of Enfield St next to the Horse & Trap

Fiore Mt Eden

Parnell: 28 York St – 12 Apartments

12 very expensive but also very large apartments in Parnell.

28 York St

More details on the Elliott Tower

Since it was announced just under two weeks ago there has been a lot of interest in the  proposal to build a massive tower on the empty site that is bounded by Elliott St, Victoria St and Albert St yet there has been very few details released about the building. The tower had previously been consented back in 2007 but the new owner of the site wanted to make some changes. Reader Steve D lodged an OIA request for the new resource consent documents that has just been approved. Those documents provide quite a bit of interesting information, some new images of the building, some good aspects to the building and some not so good ones.

Here are a few new images of what it will look like, there are more in this document.

NDG Centre 1

NDG Centre 2

NDG Centre 3

NDG Centre 4

The good news is that the building will have direct access to the Aotea CRL station and like I suggested in this post, it will be diagonally across the site which will be needed because of the annoying slip lane beside Albert St. It also looks like the building will be accessed off the proposed exit into the Victoria St Linear Park.

NDG Centre CRL LinkIt’s been reported that there will be 300 carparks in the building in six basement levels. that carpark will be accessed from the slip lane off Albert St and gets through the building to the basement on that white box on the right hand side of the image above. What’s more is that number of carparks is actually less than what  was originally consented when the tower proposal which was 481.

The biggest concern is that like the other hotels on Albert St, there will be a large Porte Cochere. When combined with the entrance to the slip lane it’s potentially going to make things quite challenging for pedestrians walking along Albert St. It appears that the plan is to retain the existing footpath on Albert St while also having one through the Porte Cochere. In the image below you can see this and the entrance to the slip lane and carpark.

NDG Centre Porte Cochere

Steve D has also been looking through some of the info and pulled out a couple of interesting/concerning bits like that to minimise the impact of trucks on city streets for the 30 months of construction, it’s expected that most will access the site via the Elliott St shared space. In my opinion this is insane. The current city centre plans call for reducing the width of Victoria St with a linear park. Why not get started on narrowing it down and use the space intended on it for trucks. The linear park could then be constructed at the same time/as the building is nearing completion.

There will also be space for bikes in the carpark along with changing rooms/showers although it appears it will likely be residents only.

This building is definitely going to change the area considerably.

Vancouver and Transit Oriented Development

When it comes to intensification one of the things we have long supported is the idea that it’s critically important that density is done well. It’s no use just building high density on its own and it’s the access to local amenities that will determine just how liveable a place is. As the amenities in an area increase it helps to make development much more viable and transport is one of the most important in that regard. Build a motorway through an area and it’s not going to be very conducive to residential development, build a rapid transit line and you can get quite the opposite.  Vancouver is one of the best examples of this and this video from last year shows the impact over 30 years that the initial Skytrain line has had on the area it passes through.

In 2009 Vancouver built the Canada Line which is another line on their Skytrain network. This article from The Atlantic Cities is about some of the impacts that have occurred along the route.

But the light rail line is also becoming a model for spurring environmentally responsible growth around stations, where people will ride transit more and drive less. The Canada Line has sparked a development boom unlike anything in the region’s history.

The most striking transformation is happening in Richmond, a suburb south of Vancouver. Richmond was a bedroom community for decades. Since the late 1990s, it’s turned into the region’s primary settling point for Chinese immigrants. However, Richmond has still retained the look of a North American suburb, with a highway-like main street pocked with large malls and parking lots on either side.

Now, Richmond is the southern terminus of the Canada Line, with easy transit access to both Vancouver and the international airport. The train runs on an elevated track above the main street, No. 3 Road. Since the rail line opened in 2009, clusters of mid-rise apartment towers have gone up around stations. More are in the works. By 2040, Richmond expects to see 30,000 more people living around the line in its city center, and all the parking lots covered with buildings.

It would be interesting to hear how the local retailers near train stations are doing. But it’s not just Richmond benefiting from the Canada Line:

Vancouver is also seeing a development boom around the Canada Line. Near one station, a 1950s era indoor shopping mall called Oakridge is being redeveloped with 13 new apartment and office towers and more retail space. Oakridge is owned by a subsidiary of the Quebec credit union that is one of the main investors in the Canada Line project.

Elsewhere on the line, Vancouver currently has 12 projects approved, 13 applications underway, and 10 more inquiries. If everything gets built, that will add another 4,100 housing units to Cambie Street, whose previous life was as a sleepy row of single-family homes.

“The province and the city made a significant transit investment and now what we’re seeing is that people are greatly attracted to it,” says Brian Jackson, Vancouver’s general manager of planning. “It’s been a magnet for new development.”

Vancouver got to its planning work a bit later than Richmond did. A Cambie Corridor plan was not finalized until 2011. But even before that happened, land values along the line soared and properties started trading hands.

The city’s major developers say they have one priority when they look at project sites these days – access to transit. “It used to be about location, location, location,” says the city’s most influential real estate marketer, Bob Rennie. “Now it’s transit, transit, transit.”

One of those is this development I talked about a few months agoClearly the Skytrain has been immensely successful on many fronts in reshaping the city.

Over the next few years I think we’re going to increasingly see similar activity along parts of our rail network – although not likely as high and we won’t truly see any major change on the western line until the CRL is built dramatically reducing travel times to the CBD and elsewhere. The only thing that will hold this back is going to be the Unitary Plan however I suspect we will likely be on to a second version by then which will hopefully address some of these issues. Morningside is a good example of where there could be substantial changes if the zoning allowed for it.

On the issue of development Kent has kindly created this map which shows the location of the apartments in our development tracker and also shows how they would relate to the Congestion Free Network which would further open up large areas to vastly improved transport options.

Appetite for development growing

It seems there’s been a flurry of news about intensification and development over the last week or so. We’ve had Len Brown trying to kick start progress on the CRL at the same time as Precinct Properties redevelop the Downtown Shopping Centre, we’ve had the news that resource consent has been issued for a massive tower to go up on the long empty site that bounds Elliot St, Victoria St and Albert St and that will be right next to the proposed Aotea Station.

Now we’ve had news that the long fought over plans to build apartments on top of the Milford Shopping Centre. The Herald reports:

Milford Shopping Centre’s development boss has welcomed an Environment Court decision allowing apartment towers to rise around the property on Auckland’s North Shore up to 12 levels high.

Campbell Barbour, New Zealand Retail Property Group general manager, said he was still reviewing the decision but said he was satisfied with it. “It signals there’s an understanding that the site is appropriate for the buildings and for intensification so it’s a long way from where this all started – that it was not appropriate,” he said.

“It creates an opportunity for the development of apartment living on the Milford site which can reflect the superb locational attributes,” he said, adding that it also supported the view that good, taller buildings would help resolve the city’s housing supply crisis.

Auckland Council officials said the company had not got as much height as it had wanted but a good compromise had been reached.

The decision on the scheme allows the towers on land now used for carparking at the shopping hub.

I’ve always liked the general idea behind the proposed Milford development as it not only makes better use of the large area the mall covers but putting more people in to the area is bound to help other local amenities more viable and the area more liveable for others. The reduction in height from what the developers were initially wanting from ~17 storeys to 12 storeys doesn’t seem too bad and it sounds like the developer is ok with it so it is likely to go ahead. From memory the plan was only for the buildings in the middle to be high with others closer to the edge of the site lower.

This is one of the images the developers were showing on the website from before this announcement so the height obviously will need to come down by a few levels.

Milford Stage 3

Also in the Herald yesterday was this article about how the councils caving to a few very vocal scaremongers is going to have some potentially big impacts on the ability to build more affordable housing.

Community housing providers say the latest draft planning rules would make affordable housing impossible in 85 per cent of Auckland.

Auckland Community Housing Network chairman Peter Jeffries says Auckland councillors dealt “a disastrous blow” to young couples seeking their first house by caving in to an intense campaign by existing homeowners against high-density housing in almost all suburban areas.

The current proposed Unitary Plan, approved a month before last October’s council elections, imposes a minimum of at least 200sq m of land per dwelling in all except 15 per cent of the Auckland urban area – the 5 per cent zoned for terraced housing and apartments, and 10 per cent in a three-storey “mixed housing urban” zone around suburban centres and main transport routes.

Mr Jeffries said that at current Auckland land values of around $1000 a sq m, home-buyers anywhere else would face land costs of at least $200,000 plus building costs of up to $160,000 for a one-bedroom unit or $200,000 for two bedrooms.

“Affordability is thrown out the window,” he said.

Mr Jeffries’ Community of Refuge Trust recently built eight one-bedroom flats in two new two-storey houses on a 1000sq m site next to the commercial area in Otahuhu.

That worked out at 125sq m of land per dwelling including pocket gardens and a shared barbecue area. It cost only $240,000 a dwelling including the land, enabling the units to rent at only $250 a week.

The example used shows quite well the impact on house prices that intensification can have. Sure it isn’t the mythical quarter acre section but then not everyone wants that and what’s more not everyone has the time or money to be able to maintain a section that size. Further not everyone wants to have to spend huge amounts of money on transport from far flung suburbs.

This is one of the key reasons it’s so important to put a submission in for the Unitary Plan and the deadline being next Friday (I need to get on to mine).

Lastly there also been news that Precinct Properties are also the front runner to build the Innovation Precinct at Wynyard Quarter.

Listed landlord Precinct Properties has just announced a big lift in bottom-line profit and that it is in exclusive negotiations to develop an exclusive part of Auckland’s waterfront.

Precinct has just announced that it made $39.5 million net profit after tax in the six months to December 31, up 67 per cent on the previous $23.6 million.

But Scott Pritchard, Precinct chief executive, also said the company was now in talks to work on one of the country’s largest urban regeneration projects on 1.1ha of land where about 46,000 sq m of floors space could be developed.

Precinct’s involvement in the Wynyard Quarter had not previously been disclosed but Pritchard said the company was working with Auckland Tourism Events and Economic Development (ATEED) which has plans for a multi-building “innovation precinct”.

Precinct could become the development partner for the commercial offices within the quarter’s Innovation Precinct, he said.

The innovation precinct is just one part of a massive redevelopment Waterfront Auckland are currently working on with a neighbouring section also under negotiation that will include a number of apartments. They’re also working on a new hotel for the area.

Wynard Innovation Precinct map

Here’s some images of what the development could end up looking like (and if it does it would be a very very neat place).

Wynyard Central

Wynyard Central 2

Wynyard Central 3

Wynyard Central 4