Building rumours 12: The real Serepisos towers?
Correction: it looks like my rumour wasn't quite right. There is still a very tall building planned for this Willis St site, but it looks like it might still be based on the original plans mentioned below. Serepisos is indeed looking seriously at his "tallest building" project, but in Lambton Quay near Cable Car Lane rather than in Willis St. There's still the same worrying suggestion that no professional architects will be involved.
It looks like our speculations about possible locations for Terry Serepisos' "tallest building in Wellington" weren't far off, and that his plans are more concrete than I thought. Rumour has it that he is working on an application for 70-80 Willis St, the current site of Lorenzo and Katipo among others.
This is an interesting piece of news, since within the last few years there have been various reports of a 95m apartment building planned for the site by another developer, Clem Griffiths. That wouldn't have been Wellington's tallest building since the adjacent Majestic Centre is 116m, so I assume that Serepisos' plans are very different from Griffiths'. Given that the District Plan height limit here is 95m, and that the new Central Area rules allow for a building to be 35% taller than that in exceptional cases, this could allow for a 128m-tall building: possibly around 35 storeys.
Since the site is so narrow, this alone would result in a strikingly slender building, one that would really look like a proper skyscraper. However, it's worth bearing in mind that the 35% extra height isn't a right but a discretionary privilege:
"...waivers might be contemplated where a positive heritage or urban design outcome will be achieved. ... Such a policy is considered useful as landmark buildings of design excellence can visually enhance and add further interest to Wellington's cityscape."Given Serepisos' aesthetic track record, what's the chance of his building exhibiting "design excellence"? I'd love to think that he would hand over the reins to an architectural firm with a reputation for daring residential high-rises (perhaps Fender Katsalidis, since this would be a doddle after the 297m Eureka Tower), and give them the creative freedom to design something truly special. After all, the architects' fees would be a tiny fraction of the cost of a major project like this, and they could make all the difference to how it is perceived by future generations.
Sadly, that looks unlikely, since the gossip suggests that Serepisos has dispensed with the services of an architect altogether, opting instead to use his own internal design team. If he can't see that it takes more than height and bravado to make a great building, it must be up to the council to be very strict in the interpretation of terms such as "design excellence". I'd love to see a real skyscraper in that part of town, but please, for all of our sakes, make it a beautiful one.