Building rumours 9: 18 Lorne St
Unlike the previous building rumour, in this case I have no idea what the buildings planned for 18 Lorne St will look like. Earlier this year consent was granted (40kB PDF) "to demolish existing building and construct two mixed use buildings for retail use, residential accommodation and carparking", and demolition is now well under way.
The redevelopment of this site is no surprise, since it went on the market well over a year ago, and the mix of retail and housing should be very appropriate for a location a few metres from Moore Wilson. I'm not sure whether this development will cover all the land that was up for sale (a huge 2,463 sq m block spanning from Lorne to Tennyson St), but if it does, then the 27m height limit could allow for a major development. It has the potential to give a huge boost to the area or be a hideous lump, depending upon the skill of the architects and (more realistically) the intentions of the developer. Given some recent efforts, I'm a bit nervous about the prospects.
Can any of my readers shed some light on this? How much of the greater site is being used, and how high will it go? In particular, is this old industrial building being completely demolished, or just gutted in preparation for conversion? I'd like to think that an enlightened developer would retain it to give the complex some character, and to help maintain a scale and historical relationship with the neighbourhood. It's the sort of robust and chunky old factory that could handle some fairly radical adaptation, along the lines of the Croxley Mills apartments, and such a development could fit in well with any new buildings on the block.
Even if that were the case, Wellington would still be losing yet another specimen of an increasingly rare species: under-used old inner-city buildings that could provide cheap informal work or living space for artists, students, artisans and new businesses. This particular building may have been too far gone structurally (especially in light of new earthquake standards) to have ever provided safe accommodation without expensive strengthening work, but it's a worrying trend. I welcome the increase in inner-city living, but we need to give some thought to retaining the diversity that has made central Wellington an interesting place to live.
One way might be to place an outright ban on demolishing any existing buildings, except for temporary structures and single-storey big-box retail, until all the vacant land, car yards and Briscoes' have been built on. That will allow for several thousand new residents in Te Aro, while preserving potential studio space, and with any luck when the time has come for them to be redeveloped, some other buildings would have become old and cheap enough to maintain the supply. Will it work? I've no idea, but other than hoping for a recession (which I've heard some people suggesting), it's one of the few ways that I can think of to stop the phrase "Creative Capital" becoming even more of joke than it is now.