Photo of the Day: Station Platform

The platform at the New Lynn Train Station

And a close up of the wall panels, I’ve mentioned before how I love the way the dust from the trains has changed the work and make it appear more natural

Photos are credited to oh.yes.melbourne

Apartment building on the rise

I’ve talked before about how it feels like the city is about to burst back to life with construction activity with so many apartment buildings being proposed all over the place.  A few weeks ago we launched a page to keep track of them all but most are still only in a proposal stage and not actually under construction. But some are and what is probably the first new tower to be built since the GFC is now well under way at New Lynn. Here are a couple of shots of it under construction. The rust covered building it is being built on top of is a multi -storey carpark that is being managed by Auckland Transport. The train station is on the other side of the building.

New Lynn Apartment construction 1

New Lynn Apartment construction 2

This is really going to transform New Lynn as it rises. However interestingly it appears the developers are now selling a second stage that will use the rest of the space above the carpark for what appear to be a series of town houses.

Merchant Quarter Stage 2

I must say it seems really odd having town houses perched up in the air above a carpark. Hopefully though both parts of the development will fill up as from walking around New Lynn the one thing the place really needs is some people. A lot of money has been put into improving public space for pedestrians but at the moment it’s so empty just doesn’t work For example there are two shared spaces but due to the lack of people, cars are using them as rat runs and racing down them doing 60km/h despite tens of millions having been spent to build a new roads to bypass the town centre.

In the CBD another recent development to add to the list is the Fiore II. It is being built above the Wong Doo building on the corner of Hobson St and Cook St as shown below (with the Fiore I building behind it).

Fiore II location

Wong Doo building next to the traffic sewer of Hobson St

However due to the heritage status of the Wong Doo building, it can’t be demolished and so the developer is basically building over the top of it in a way I think look hideous with big square boxes dominating over the historic building.

Fiore II design

Perhaps it’s just a really bad image of what is proposed and the finished product will look better – but then it is on the their website.

Photo of the day – New Lynn Brick Art

Brick artwork around New Lynn recognising the areas history in brick making

Brick Seat

Brick Art

Brick House

Are all “Metropolitan Centres” created equal?

The Auckland Plan’s development strategy highlighted 10 metropolitan centres across Auckland: Albany (emerging), Takapuna, Westgate (emerging), Henderson, New Lynn, Newmarket, Sylvia Park (emerging), Botany (emerging), Manukau and Papakura. They’re shown on the Auckland Plan map below:

metro-centresThe Unitary Plan’s job is to give effect to the Auckland Plan, so each centre has effectively become a “zone” – with rules applied to those centres. If we look at New Lynn, for example, we can see that it’s actually just the “core” part of the centre (the pink/purple striped area) which is given that zone – the same thing is repeated across all the metropolitan centres:newlynn-zoningWhile in places like New Lynn the 18 storey height limit seems pretty appropriate, and it’s a sensible limit as development of around that height is currently proposed, I think it’s a valid question as to whether this somewhat arbitrary number makes sense across each and every one of the ten metropolitan centres.

For example, in Takapuna and Newmarket 18 levels seems potentially a bit too limiting – both are places where you could have market demand for higher, where in some selected locations higher buildings might be appropriate and are also very well developed centres in terms of the existing amenities available. At the other end of the scale, in places like Papakura, Botany or Westgate, 18 levels seems light-years away from what’s likely to occur in these areas for quite a long time and would be extremely different to what’s in those locations at the moment.

Furthermore, I think it’s also questionable whether the entire centre should have the same height limit. If we look at somewhere like Takapuna, there’s part of the Metropolitan Centre zone which is pretty close to the beach – where it might be desirable to have a lower height limit and avoid the buildings shading the beach in the afternoon sun, but then areas further to the west where higher limits than 18 levels would be appropriate:takapuna-zoningWhat seems to potentially be behind a bit of the angst over the Unitary Plan at the moment is a feeling that it’s a little bit too “one size fits all” in its approach – not quite nuanced enough to take into consideration the often subtle variations across different parts of Auckland. Of course there are advantages that come out of a greater level of simplicity and uniformity in terms of making the planning documents easier to understand, plus a more consistent planning framework across Auckland is one of the key drivers behind the Unitary Plan replacing the myriad of old plans.

But overall it does seem that perhaps this drive for simplicity has perhaps gone a bit too far. Takapuna and Newmarket do seem fundamentally different to Botany or Papakura – and perhaps always will be. Similarly, some bits of the Metropolitan Centres seem like they’re likely to be suitable for greater levels of intensity than other parts. A more nuanced approach doesn’t necessarily mean winding back on the proposed zoning of the Unitary Plan – it might well mean greater levels of intensity are possible in places like Newmarket and the western parts of Takapuna, to balance out lower levels elsewhere. Because ultimately I don’t think all Metropolitan Centres are created equal in terms of their suitability for growth, just as not all areas within each centre is equally suitable.

To clean or not to clean?

Keeping our train and bus stations clean and tidy is an important part in ensuring that we provide a pleasant environment for passengers. To their credit, Auckland Transport seems to manage this fairly well and I can’t really think of a situation where I have thought a station looks bad in this regard. In saying this there is one station on the network where not everything has been kept clean, yet interestingly I think this actually enhances it.

The station is New Lynn and let me explain why. The station was started back in the days of the Waitakere City council and they had a policy of including art works in every major infrastructure project undertaken. There are actually four different pieces of artwork included in the station but the one I want to focus on is the one that most train users see. Within the trench the walls are adorned with concrete panels which feature ripples and indentations which are said to reflect local landscape. Over time dust, which I understand has mainly come from the brakes of our trains, has settled in the groves and on the side of the ridges. It has a very natural feel defining the artwork better and in my view it only serves to enhance it.

Trench Panel

Trench Panel 2

But what do you think? Should it be cleaned down or should we leave it as is?

I was also at New Lynn to have a look at how the development is progressing. Since my last visit in January the new medical centre and carpark buildings have been completed which has seen the hoardings and fences surrounding them come down, and has opened up the final section of McRae Way (which is a shared space).

Here are the new buildings looking at them from McRae Way. I think that this street will really hum once a few more buildings are developed along it, like in the car park to the left of the shot.

McRae Way 1

There is at least one café going in the shops on the ground floor of the new buildings that will hopefully see much more use of this space.

McRae Way 2

Between the buildings a new lane has been created that is also lined with retail space. What I really like is that it is a continuation of the pedestrian crossing that comes straight from the train station.

New Lynn Lane 1

New Lynn Lane 2

On the other side of the building (the train station side), the building continues to be lined with retail. I like just how much space has been created so that those waiting for buses don’t get in the way of pedestrians and there is still enough space for the occupants of the shops to use some of the footpath. One single canopy keeps this all dry.

Bus stop

And here are the completed buildings from the other side.

Completed buildings

All up things are looking good and once the retail stores have been fitted out it will help to bring a real buzz to the place. Construction will also be starting soon on the apartment tower that will go above the carpark building. As mentioned earlier I hope that these developments spur on more in the area. What has been completed so far looks excellent and really helps to give a nice urban feel to the town centre.

http://transportblog.co.nz/2013/04/23/developments-in-newmarket-and-new-lynn-get-the-green-light/

Developments in Newmarket and New Lynn get the green light

There were two big bits of development news yesterday.

The first was that the University of Auckland confirmed that they were buying the former Lion Brewery site in Newmarket as part of their plans to consolidate their operations in the central city. Here is their press release:

The University of Auckland’s plans to acquire the 5.2ha former Lion Breweries site have been given the go-ahead, paving the way for a new campus in Newmarket.

The landmark decision by The University of Auckland Council, effective 31 May 2013, follows a comprehensive due diligence process. The purchase marks the beginning of a long-term development of the site, spanning a 30 year timeframe, to create a mixed use campus, with purpose-built teaching and research facilities, student accommodation, business development and other facilities.

“Without a doubt, this is an exciting and significant development for the University, the Newmarket community and Auckland City,” says Vice-Chancellor, Professor Stuart McCutcheon. “Our researchers already actively collaborate with industry and the location of the new campus will further enhance our business relationships and benefit the local community.

“The Newmarket Campus will join the City and Grafton campuses to create an integrated campus cluster, supporting long term growth enabling the University to deliver to Auckland and New Zealand the full benefits of a multi-disciplinary, world-ranked research university.”

There is already a comprehensive public transport network of bus and rail routes servicing the area, which will greatly facilitate rapid movement between the three campuses.

Work will begin on demolishing many of the old brewery facilities when the University takes possession of the site in June. The first projects to be undertaken on the Newmarket site will be the total refurbishment of some existing buildings to provide for greatly enhanced engineering research space, and the construction of a new civil structures hall, including a nine metre strong wall (one of the largest in Australasia).

Further developments on the Newmarket campus will be staged as demands for new facilities arise and will be delivered in the context of a framework plan already developed for the site by Jasmax and Architectus Architects; this will ensure the University creates a coherent and pleasant campus environment for its staff, students and visitors.

Professor McCutcheon says “Over time we anticipate relocating activities from the Tamaki and Epsom campuses to the City/Grafton/Newmarket location. The timeframe over which this relocation occurs is yet to be determined, but ultimately this is expected to result in a significant reduction in our total landholdings.”

The comment about the site having strong PT links is interesting and these links will only improve as the CRL is built. It also makes the decision to build an east facing link on the CRL, instead of the inner west interchange a no brainer, something we have discussed before. Further, reading through some of the material regarding the decision, it highlights perfectly that they see huge benefits from agglomeration. This is also one of the key reasons we should be building the CRL.

In 10-15 years when we reached capacity at City and Grafton, we would have had to further split the University to accommodate space requirements. This would have involved either whole faculties, or parts of most faculties, moving to Tāmaki. Both of these options would have limited our ability to achieve the full benefits of a comprehensive integrated research university. The Newmarket campus, by contrast, offers long term growth potential close to the City and Grafton campuses.

The location of the Newmarket campus provides the University with an opportunity to ensure long term integration of our activities across the main campuses.

Initial development Plans for the Newmarket site

The second piece of news comes from New Lynn where the council has granted resource consent for the construction of the Merchant Quarter Condominiums which are located right next to both the train station, Lynnmall and now a medical centre. We have previously covered what is going on in New Lynn, including these apartments here. Here is the press release from the council:

Aucklanders are embracing options being offered in quality, compact and affordable housing as West Auckland’s first high-rise apartment building is given the go-ahead.

Auckland Council has granted resource consent for a 10-storey residential tower above the new Merchant Quarter building in New Lynn – with work expected to start this month.

With prices starting at $250,000, the 110 one and two-bedrooms apartments offer an affordable choice for Aucklanders looking to buy their first home.

“Aucklanders respond rapidly when they are given the opportunity, “ says Mayor Len Brown. “More than half the apartments have already been sold in this building, which offers people affordable options close to great transport links, community facilities, cafes, restaurants and shops.”

“New Lynn is showing the rest of Auckland what a vibrant, compact city can look like, and it’s looking very good indeed. The Merchant Quarter is New Lynn’s new heart where people can live, work, do business, shop and be entertained.”

The apartment complex being built by Tasman Cook will go above the council’s new five- level McCrae Way public carpark building in the new Merchant Quarter.

The carpark will continue to operate during construction because Auckland Council future-proofed it to enable residential development and therefore minimise disruption.

“We expect the rest of the apartments to sell incredibly quickly once construction starts,” says Tasman Cook Director Leonard Ross. “Interest has been very high and once people see the crane on site they’ll want to be in on the action.”

That also means the remaining carpark building’s retail spaces will be snapped up, adds Infratil’s Development General Manager Andrew Lamb. Infratil is the council’s partner in the Merchant Quarter development.

The Merchant Quarter development is part of Auckland Council’s transformation of New Lynn into a vibrant metropolitan centre to deliver the aspirations of the Auckland Plan.

It is also an excellent example of the model and approach for a more compact city detailed in the council’s proposed Unitary Plan.

“New Lynn is Auckland’s poster child for brownfields’ development and shows how inner city living can be created in town centres such as New Lynn,” says Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse.

The New Lynn tower offers panoramic views of New Lynn and the Waitakere Ranges with the west facing apartments proving the most popular with buyers.

The tower builds on a number of projects already delivered in New Lynn including the award-winning transport interchange, the Clark St extension and the Merchant Quarter. As well as the new carpark, the latter features a new medical centre and an upgraded McCrae Way, Auckland’s newest shared space street and New Lynn’s second. Auckland Transport has also upgraded Great North Rd and Delta Ave.

The apartment tower is expected to be finished early next year.

This announcement was covered by both TVNZ and TV3 including an interview with one of the owners to be.

New Lynn Apartments - TVNZ

New Lynn Apartments - TV3

As mentioned in one of the stories, roughly half of the apartments have already been sold. I just happened to be at New Lynn yesterday and while the temporary sales office was closed, I took a photo of the sales board through the window. Each red dot represents a sale.

New Lynn Apartments - Sales Board

There really seems to be a bit of a buzz back in the city about new developments and I get the feeling that things are really about to take off.

Update on New Lynn

Unfortunately I haven’t been able to do to much this week due being roped in to help sort things out for a family members wedding this weekend however in my travels I did manage to stop off at New Lynn for a little look to see how things were progressing in what is one of the major development focuses current around Auckland. I was last there in September. There are two main things going on at the moment, the construction of the medical centre and carpark by Infratil and the upgrades to Gt North Rd.

First up here is some of the progress on the previously mentioned buildings that are going up. For a while I wasn’t sure about the medical centre but now that the glass is mostly in, I think it looks great.

New Lynn Medical Centre

And here is the car park building which has a rusted metal facade which I think looks good.

New Lynn Carparking building

Between the buildings a new pedestrian lane is going in and both buildings will have retail around the ground floor. When finished and the hoardings are removed, there will a lot more space for passengers waiting for buses.

New Lynn new lane

One thing that has changed since I last visited is that Infratil have announced plans to put 10 levels containing 111 apartments on top of that car parking building. Here is a model of it will look like if built and currently 10% of the apartments are sold.

New Lynn Apartments

The other major bit of work going on is the upgrade of Gt North Rd to make it more pedestrian friendly. Here are some pictures of some of the new footpaths and the new speed table being installed.

New Footpath

New Speedtable

Lastly while there I noticed this excellent feature that had been integrated into the New Lynn station itself, a trundler park which means you can wheel your shopping from the nearby mall to the station and only have to carry it the short distance to the train.

Trundler Park

As time goes by, I continue to get a much better feeling that New Lynn will be quite a successful redevelopment. If we can get a few more buildings close by around the 4 story mark I think we will really start to get a great urban centre vibe in the place.

Over the course of this year the blog will start to look at other urban developments that are going on around the city. If you are a developer and want to tell us about your development, my details are on the Contact Us page

A Visit to New Lynn

Growing up out west I used to pass through New Lynn on a fairly regular basis and up until a few years ago the place was pretty run down. That all started to change a few years ago when the rail line was placed into a trench and the fantastic new station and bus interchange was built. But while that development was good, it was only the start of a programme created by the former Waitakere City Council to transform the whole area and it is probably fair to say that it is the biggest urban redevelopment going on in the country outside of the CBD. Here is an old image we saw looking at some potential development.

An old concept of development in New Lynn

Patrick and I visited New Lynn the other to have a look around the developments going on there. The place is a hive of activity with lots of different projects going on so here are a few photos of how things are looking at the moment:

First up, Gt North Rd where as a result of things like the Clark St bypass (as seen to the left of the image above) the plans are to slow down traffic and make it more pedestrian friendly. Work is currently focused on the southern side of the road where some quite deep pits are being constructed. These will eventually have two purposes, the primary one will be to collect and filter storm water but they will also be used to hold trees. You can see just how much space has been taken out of the road when you compare the location of the new kerb with the old one to the left of the image.

Next up is McRae Way which is a shared space that comes off Gt North Rd and curves around to Mayoral Dr and currently sits behind most of the shops. Here are a couple of images courtsy of Google that show how things used to be and as you can see it was not really a road at all but just a route through a hideous car park (note the old bus station and train station are in the bottom right of the map)

And here is how it looks today with the first part of the shared space completed:

The car parks are also scheduled for development in the future

And looking back in the direction of New North Rd

Lining this share space with buildings will really help to transform this space and could help to make it into a really cool area. Of course one thing that also sticks out in the first McRae Way photo above was the development going on in the background. That is part of developments Infratil are doing on top of the old bus station site. There are two buildings going up here, the one you see in the picture will have retail on the bottom and then car parking above it which I believe is partly to allow for development of the carparks above. One floor of parking is actually being dedicated to the other building going in which will be a medical centre along with other medical practices. Like the car park it will also have retail on the ground floor and there will be a lane between the two giving good access to the train station.

Medical Centre with the other exit of McRae Way

Medical centre on the right, train station on the left with the bus interchange between them

The last thing going on at the moment is at the train station itself. There Auckland Transport are adding additional canopies which when finished will provide complete coverage of the platforms and stairwells (something a lot more stations need). It is a bit hard to photograph them but here you can see the canopy extending down the stairs.

And the new and old canopies in the trench itself

Note to AT: the station could really do with a good clean, the artwork panels and platform edges and old canopies look really dirty. Also when on the train I have noticed weeds growing at each end of the platforms where water has pooled

All up there is quite a bit going on here and some really exciting changes for what was once a pretty run down place. Assuming it is ultimately judged to be successful I suspect that the town centre will likely become a template for future redevelopment, not just in the city but within the country as well.

Priority of Packed Trains vs Cars at Level Crossings

This post is a little bit of a rant about something that has been annoying me. Recently a change was made to how city bound trains operate through New Lynn which has resulted in dwell times being considerably slowed down. In the past trains would turn up at the platform, train staff would go though their normal procedure and then the train would depart. The signalling system had already picked up that the train was approaching the station and had activated the level crossing at the nearby Portage Rd.

New procedures mean that the train manager now needs to get off the train and has to walk to a box in the middle of the platform to swipe an electronic token which will then activate the crossing and signals. Now this may not sound too bad but I have often noticed that the train manager is not in a carriage that is close to where the box is meaning that they have to walk down the platform to do this and some even walk all the way back before closing the doors so the train can proceed. All up I have noticed that this adds up to 30 seconds to the stop at New Lynn which just makes it that much harder for trains to reach Britomart on time. In many ways this is the same sort of thing that used to have to happen under the old Mt Albert station and was something that was meant to have been eliminated with our new signalling system.

Of course there needs to be a reason for this change and unfortunately I don’t know what that reason is but is most likely to do with the length of time the barriers were down. The problem is that Portage Rd isn’t heavily used and normally I will only see a very small handful  of cars waiting for trains to cross yet at in the morning peak trains already have hundreds of people on them by this point. To me it feels like we are now deliberately delaying trains just so that we can make it easier for a few drivers.

So Auckland Transport/Veolia/Kiwirail are you able to give us an explanation as to why you are now holding up packed trains at New Lynn. Better yet can you scrap this stupid policy and go back to the one that seemed to perfectly fine up until recently as in my books saving 30 seconds for a few hundred people on a train is far more important than making a few cars having to wait a bit longer.

Tiverton-Wolverton upgrade about to start

Another decent sized transport project is about to be started near New Lynn. In just over a weeks time work will start on upgrading and widening Tiverton And Wolverton Sts between Clark St and the intersection of New Windsor Rd and Maioro St. Auckland Transport say that on average, over 31,000 vehicles use the route each day so its definitely pretty busy. The project will cost about $30m and includes improvements for all modes of transport so is something that I support. Here is what is is being done:

  • Creating four lanes (two in each direction) from Clark Street East to the intersection of New Windsor Road and Maioro Street
  • Installing traffic signals at five major intersections to improve traffic flow and provide safe crossing points:
    • Taylor Street/Wolverton Street
    • St George Street/Wolverton Street
    • Blockhouse Bay Road/Tiverton Road/Wolverton Street
    • Whitney Street/Tiverton Road
    • Tiverton Road/New Windsor Road
  • Improving pedestrian safety by upgrading the existing footpaths to 2.5 metres on the north side and 1.8 metres on the south side and installing four new pedestrian islands and new pram crossings
  • Undergrounding and renewing Vector power and Telecom services
  • Upgrading stormwater catchpits and pipe infrastructure to reduce incidences of localised flooding and cater for the demands of future population growth
  • Installing 10 new bus shelters along the route
  • Upgrading street lighting to the standard expected of a major arterial route
  • Landscaping work

A cycle route that allows cyclists to avoid the busy Tiverton-Wolverton corridor will be constructed separately to the main roading contract. It will be implemented along Miranda Street, Margate Road, Mulgan Street and New Windsor Road, linking with the New Lynn SH20 cycle route at Maioro Street, and is expected to be in place by the end of 2012

The route being upgraded

An impression of how Tiverton will eventually look (facing east towards New Windsor Rd)

The new cycle route also being constructed

Projects like this highlight the benefit in improving local roads compared to throwing hundreds of millions at state highways, many of which carry only a fraction of the traffic.  For more info see the AT page for the project.