Reviewing the review
I've been wondering what happened to the Central Area Review since submissions closed on it last November. It turns out that after receiving 90 formal submissions, the council is now asking for more feedback: in effect, submissions on the submissions. You have until the 12th of March to make your views known, then a formal hearing of submissions will be held before the middle of the year, followed by a commissioners' decision which has to be ratified by the full Council. The same applies to some other district plan changes, such as the Urban Development Area & Structure Plans and the Heritage Provisions. The timeframe seems painfully drawn out, and although it's apparently standard practice for district plan changes, the more cynical among us might wonder whether it's designed to allow developers to get in now and build things that wouldn't be allowed under the new plans.
Trawling through reams of policies, rules, guidelines and submissions can seem like a daunting task, but if you read them carefully the submissions can be quite revealing. Sure, much of it is quite predictable: the heritage mavens want every piece of timber that's survived a few decades to be preserved in aspic, while the developers scream "how dare you infringe my private property rights by not letting me tear down historic buildings and shade the public spaces?!" However, some of the submissions (363kB PDF) might be a first hint as to what people have in mind for their properties, so let's look at a few of the more interesting ones.
It's easy to assume that any property owner objecting to heritage provisions must be a rapacious developer, but objections also came from Wellington Wesley Parish (#88), the St James Theatre Charitable Trust (#20) and Downstage Theatre (#23). The church might want to modify their hall or built on their vacant land, while "the site behind the St James Theatre is an asset held in trust for the future viability and development of the St James Theatre and the Opera House". I take this as meaning that whether or not the trust has any concrete plans to develop that site, the development potential of a site is an asset in itself and might be used as collateral to keep the trust going. That's possibly a sign to be cautious and not read too much into any of these submissions: an objection to development limits may not indicate any actual intent to develop.
Many residents of St Peters Apartments at 192 Willis St (see submission #25) object to the post-bypass rezoning of the motorway tunnel entrance and Ghuznee St intersection as Central Area with a height limit of 27 metres, and want the land developed as park space instead. It looks like the space will be neither, though, since Transit insists that the land will still be needed for roading and emergency access, with a bit of token landscaping around the edges ("parsley around the pig"). I'd like to think that Transit could still get their emergency access and yet create a useful public area there: a paved plaza could provide space for an open air weekend market once the one further up Willis St succumbs to the inevitable development. The recent removal of planting along Ghuznee St is presumably just to allow for insertion of a turning lane there, so we shouldn't read too much into that.
Two submitters take quite different positions on the vacant land adjacent to other parts of the bypass. Roland Sapsford (#80) asks for "land adjacent to the bypass be zoned to encourage lowscale development in keeping with the heritage character of the area", while Steve Dunn (#70) wants "all edges of the bypass from Arthur Street to the tunnel that are not currently built on" to be zoned Open Space". I have to side with Roland on this one: one of the things I hate about Karo Drive is its bleak, open, suburban feeling, and I agree with a commenter that "it still looks like a fresh scar". Defining the edges with low- to mid-rise (2-4 storey) buildings would do much more to integrate it into the urban fabric than creating more parks, which in any case would be too small to be of much real use.
Dr Marko Kljakovic (#26) was concerned about "the financial implications of reducing building heights" and wanted the removal of "the Footscray Ave cottages located on 65-69 Abel Smith St, Te Aro from the proposed Cuba Street Heritage Area." You may remember that Dr Kljakovic was recently seriously injured in an explosion and fire that destroyed one of those very cottages, after using a candle to see his way through a house full of paint thinners at 10pm on a Sunday night.
The Warehouse Ltd (#75) wants twice as much parking as the plan allows, and seems worried by the restrictions on signage. That's worth bearing in mind now that they're looking for a new central city location.
Some submitters (#73, #50, #30) don't like sunlight protection and heritage status for Courtenay Place because that will limit what they can do with their buildings, including those that house Molly Malone's, Espressoholic and Chow. Three submissions (#58-60) all wanted 264-266, 244-250, 236-242, 257-259, 267-273, 275-283 Cuba St and 45 Abel Smith St, in other words pretty much everything south of Fidels, all removed from the Cuba St heritage area. Another objector (#21) wanted the existing maximum heights retained on a range of Te Aro properties, including the homes of Fidels, Illicit and Miss Demeanour (who is already worried about rent rises). While none of these submissions may indicate any specific intention to redevelop, they sound rather suspicious and will give most Wellingtonians another reason to support the new plan!
On submitter (#70) wanted noise limits for "electronic sound systems" in public spaces reduced from 75dBA to 10dBA! For comparison, a typewriter or normal conversation is 70dB, a fridge is 50dB and a mosquito buzzes at 40dB. The man obviously has some kind of super powers if 10dB is going to keep him awake.
Most property owners and developers objected to any loss of buildable volume, but Museum Hotel Properties (#43) in particular wanted to retain a building mass factor of 100%, and also wanted to "define Public Environment to exclude loss of amenity to adjacent building owners or strata title owners." Can we assume that they have plans to build right up to the property edge somewhere and block another building's windows?
The Ministry for Culture & Heritage (#39) says that the plan "should recognise that a National War Memorial Park is proposed for the land in Buckle St between Taranaki St and Tory/Tasman Sts and that the above provisions need to accommodate the creation of the proposed park." That certainly confirms what I wrote earlier about the site.
Progressive Enterprises Ltd (#67, owners of Foodtown, Woolworths and Countdown) wanted the rules "amended to better accommodate and recognise the appropriate provision of large format retail within the Central Area and the relevant operational and other characteristics of large format retail." None of those businesses currently operate in the Central Area, so could this be a hint? Their rivals Foodstuffs Ltd (#19, owners of New World) specifically asked for "the flexible implementation of the display window/active building edge standards when existing buildings that do not have display windows are being adapted for new uses". This seems like a clear reference to their intended conversion of the old A-mart building into a Duffy & Finns liquor superstore. They earlier announced that they were working with the council to "produce the very best design concept", but since blank walls along a central city street is not exactly "the very best design concept", this seems just a tiny bit of a contradiction.