Just say no to Waterfront Watch
On the waterfront this lunchtime, enjoying the same Wellington sunshine that Hadyn mentioned, and before coming across the phobics' picnic, I took this crummy little photo on my phone. It shows, in all its pixellated, overexposed glory, a dozen or so people eating sandwiches, playing guitar or just generally chilling out in the sunshine while sheltered from the cool southerly by Shed 5.
When I returned to work, I re-read Cr Ruben's letter to the Capital Times, saying that the Outer T would be better if it were completely open space, as we wouldn't be able to do that sort of informal hanging out if Shed 1 were replaced by a hotel. But look at this artist's impression of the north end of the proposed Hilton:
It has a few things in common with the north end of Shed 5. Sunny? Check. Sheltered from the southerly? Check. Public space close to the water? Check. Proximity to expensive bars and restaurant? Check. So how is it that the same conditions that attract ordinary people to sit in the sun outside Shed 5 are supposed to drive them away from this space?
So, of course, I sent off a rant:
Jack Ruben wants nothing but benches at Queens Wharf, where people can "relax, fish, enjoy the view or read a book". But people will still be able to do this in the public spaces around a hotel, just as they currently do outside Shed 5, seemingly unintimidated by well-off diners inside. At lunch today, there were more people sitting there than on the whole outer T.
People don't gather in the middle of large spaces, but around the edges, especially near visibly inhabited buildings. Commerce and public life can exist together, and besides, why is it acceptable to charge $12 for rock climbing, but elitist commercialism to charge a fraction of that for coffee in a hotel café?
Imagine Cuba Mall or Midland Park without buildings. No cafés, shops or nasty offices and apartments. No shelter, active edges, or workers and residents to keep the place busy when the sun isn't shining. These spaces would be as bleakly deserted as Waterfront Watch's vision for the waterfront. They may want the waterfront to resemble Karori or Wadestown, but those of us who love this city for its urban energy look forward to enjoying more of that vitality by the water's edge.