Up the Quays
While I still have my doubts about the Harbour Quays development, there are signs that the outlook might be improving. First of all, there's the news in today's Dominion Post that the indoor stadium will indeed be going ahead near there. While the article only refers to "a deal to look at the implications of an alternative design that would be acceptable to CentrePort", the tone of the article and the quotes from CentrePort and the mayor sound very positive. The stadium will have to be redesigned, but it sounds like it should be possible to accommodate all 12 courts without impinging upon the port operations. I know that some council officers are very keen on ensuring a high-quality design for the stadium, but I still worry that the extra costs from all this dithering will force a cheap & nasty approach.
Secondly, while I've yet to see any detailed images of the new BNZ building, and what I have seen was not encouraging from a design perspective, at least it's in the right part of the site. Along with Waterloo Tower and other new buildings it'll help fill in the gap between the Stats building and the rest of the CBD. The latest press release says that "the ground floor will be occupied by retail tenants compatible with the building use", and while it's hard to tell exactly what that means, if the new building provides an active, sheltered edge to Waterloo Quay it'll help it feel a little more like a city street rather than a semi-industrial wasteland.
Thirdly, the Central Area Review means that Harbour Quays, referred to as the "Port Redevelopment Precinct" for planning purposes, will actually have to come under some design and planning scrutiny, a process that didn't apply to the Stats building. It has always had a masterplan (368kB PDF), but that was purely voluntary, and under the new district plan Harbour Quays will have to stick to it. It's a bit too low and open for my liking (full of "streets" and "promenades" that look suspiciously like elongated carparks), but at least there's a commitment to elements such as active edges and mixed use that should take it away from the "office park" typology.
While these developments don't go as far as the Kemp Report's recommendations, the combination of adding non-office use, starting at the south and applying urban design principles should go a long way towards making this an extension of the CBD rather than an isolated office monoculture. I'm still in partial agreement with Vibrant Wellington's John Feast in today's Dominion Post opinion piece (not online: it's a low Stuff-to-print ratio today!) when he calls for more public input into the potential uses of the land, and that there should be a residential component there.
However, I think it's a bit cynical for him to try to align himself with Waterfront Watch by comparing the Harbour Quays buildings to the Hilton and other controversial proposals. I also think his claim that "the CentrePort development will damage inner Wellington's vibrancy" doesn't stand up in the light of the Kemp Report ("any loss in office employees frequenting the retail heart ... will be more than offset by the increase in ... residents") or even the report that Vibrant Wellington comissioned themselves. For instance, as I've said before, the increased office space due to Harbour Quays will be more than met by increased demand. If you can interpolate from the 10,000 extra FTEs predicted by the NZIER over the next 15 years, by the time the 1000 BNZ staff move into their building in 2009, Wellington will need space for 2000 extra workers. If Harbour Quays is done well enough and gradually enough, Wellington can handle it.