On Saturday I went to look at the display suite for the Chews Lane apartment building. It's worth visiting, and not just because it's a chance to see inside the renovated upper floors of the Free Ambulance building, but also because there are some detailed models and floor plans that aren't available online, and they help give a better understanding of how it fits into the context in three dimensions.
The first thing that stands out is that it's big. So big, in fact, that the official site has to use a scrolling Flash widget to show its full height! Here's the full image in one go (click for a bigger version):
This rendering doesn't quite show the whole picture: it omits the hideous yellow pagoda of Willbank House to the right. On the other hand, as Gordon Paynter pointed out, the previous rendering of the brick-clad building in the foreground didn't show the apartments either! So the only way to see the whole development in context is to look at the models (which I wasn't cheeky enough to photograph at the weekend, but I have done since). You might also have noticed that the glassy building in the left foreground has grown an extra, louvred top floor since the previous rendering, which has quietly disappeared from the relevant page on the website.
While the apartment building is tall (twelve floors, on top of eight floors of office buildings), it's relatively narrow. Here's a very rough outline of its footprint, showing that it takes up less than half the depth of the block. It's set back from Willis St, but not quite as much as Willbank House and the State Insurance building, so it will stand out if you're looking up or down the street. I've tried to show that the plan is not quite rectangular, but tapers slightly towards the ends, which is emphasised at the north by curved verandahs. This gives the design more subtlety and sleekness than the nondescript slab that was barely visible in the previous renderings. Together with the whiteness of the solid elements, this makes it remind me of the rather lovely Mitika apartments in Oriental Bay, though the models make it look lighter and glassier. There's some more dicussion of its merits (or otherwise) over on SkyscraperCity.
Continuing from my previous post, here are a few more tidbits about the development:
- They've only released 50 of the 90 apartments for sale so far. By the time that I got to the display suite, half an hour after it officially opened, only 10 of those 50 were unsold. Update: all 50 are sold now, and there's no word when the remainder will go on sale.
- There will be a total of 227 bedrooms in the building, nearly 50 more than I estimated earlier when trying to map the projected locations of future inner-city residents.
- The apartment building is due for completion in just over two years' time (early 2009).
- The agents describe this as the first purpose-built apartment building in the CBD. While that's debatable (shouldn't the CBD include Boulcott St and The Terrace? Do serviced apartments like J Street count?), at 20 storeys it's certainly the tallest.
- The "Gastro Bar" mentioned for the ground floor of 56 Victoria St is more than speculation: the fitout is underway, and it's being designed by the team behind St Johns. It could be ready very soon, but apparently the operators are (sensibly) waiting for the heavy construction at number 50 to be completed.
- Most of the Willis St retail, and the "food and beverage" outlets planned for the lane itself, already have operators lined up (though you've always got to take estate agents' comments with a grain or two of salt).
- The shop space in Victoria Arcade behind Tinakori Gallery looks like it's also leased and getting ready for fitout.
- The Malthouse has found three potential sites for relocation, and have a preferred site that is bigger and better than their current building.