I've been wondering when the houses relocated for the bypass would be re-inhabited, thus bringing some life back to a ravaged district. Surely it wouldn't be long before they were snapped up? But no: Karo Drive and Tonks Grove are going to look like toytown for quite some time to come.
It turns out that under the Public Works Act, Transit has to look for the original owners or their descendants, and then offer the properties to them at market prices. Since some of the relocated buildings now lie across up to three separate land parcels, and some of the properties were acquired 50 years ago, it's going to take them a long time to sort everything out. This "heritage precinct" is thus going to remain a ghost town for at least another year.
I don't supposed it's occurred to them to offer the buildings for short-term lease in the interim? At a time when residents, artists and small businesses are worrying about being driven out of the city by rising rents, both Transit and the city could benefit from making use of these buildings. They'd need a bit more internal renovation to make them liveable, but surely that's preferable to leaving these houses as sadly empty as they were when the bypass opened.
Right next door in Footscray Ave, there are some quiet signs of life. Because these cottages weren't moved, they haven't run into the same land ownership complexities, and those that weren't torched burned in a tragic accident are still inhabited. It's not quite the lively mixed-use precinct that upper Cuba St should be, but it's probably the best we can expect for the rest of the cottages. If Transit had actually made the re-inhabitation of the precinct a priority, they could have started searching for the owners long before the motorway construction was complete, and the whole area might actually have been alive by now.
It all goes to show that for all the talk by the bypass' backers that the project was above "improving" Te Aro, they either never cared or never understood what cities are really about. It's not a fresh coat of paint and a few token plants that make a city, but people. When these cottages were falling to pieces, the bypassers were quick to talk about "blight", but to me it's a lot more "blighted" now that it's empty. It's the same with the post-bypass modifications to Ghuznee St, since while all the actual highway building was completed on or ahead of schedule, Ghuznee St is still a scruffy building site despite all the work being scheduled for completion last month. Never mind the rhetoric about improving the city: once the drivers get their way, everything else is an afterthought at best.