WellUrban

Personal reflections on urbanism, urban life and sustainable urban design in Wellington, New Zealand.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

What's up, Dock?


Herd St BrasserieOkay, so the mystery bar wasn't much of a mystery: it's the Herd St Brasserie that's just opened at Chaffers Dock. The food and décor is all fairly predictable, but the location is spectacular and it's exactly the sort of place that the waterfront has needed for a long time. It does breakfast, coffee, lunch (including cheapish panini as well as full cooked meals), reasonably-priced dinners (mains in the mid-twenties), cocktails (including a rather excellent Tanqueray Ten Martini for $12!), beer and wine (thankfully not tied to a single distributor's range). For people who've been waiting for a waterfront dining option that's neither an expensive restaurant nor a dodgy pub: your wait is over.

This is perhaps relevant to a comversation I got involved in yesterday. I tend to agree with Russell Brown on many topics, but when he wrote yesterday:
The next public-spirited architect who proposes a "residential mix" for Auckland's waterfront can piss off. Building swanky apartments for your mates kills public space. Bah.
He may have a point about Auckland's Viaduct: I don't know, since it's years since I visited. From what I've seen second-hand, there's some pretty good architecture going on there, but the ground floors tend to have either private residential use or blank walls. I replied by saying that it's a lack of active edges at ground level that kills public space, not "residential mix".

For the record, here's what public space look like when it's been killed by swanky apartments:

Chaffers Dock & promenadeToday, this dead space played host to dozens of people walking, cycling or jogging past on the recently opened promenade, while others sat down and enjoyed a coffee or a beer in the sun. In fact, there appeared to be slightly more people at the Brasserie than there were on the whole of the Waitangi Park lawn, despite the lovely day. Can it be that residential, retail and recreational uses can actually co-exist? When the seats and lighting are complete, this is going to be a really nice space, and a lot livelier than it's ever been before.

Chaffers Dock atriumI've found out a few more things about some of the other upcoming tenants in the Chaffers Dock complex. The Port Café will indeed be a "gourmet fish 'n' chips" place, with BYO and takeaways, and is expected to open in about a month. Mövenpick is even closer to opening, but the Chaffers Store and Empire skate shop will take a while longer. The atrium, which is nearly finished and looking quite spectacular, will eventually be home to a branch of Auckland's Zarbo deli/café. While I'd prefer something unique and local, it seems to be very highly regarded, and a delicatessen would be a really nice complement to the other businesses (update: Zarbo plans to open in October, and will include a pizzeria). There seems to be just a couple of tenancies still to be let, and I'm hoping that the remaining waterside one becomes a cheap Malaysian place, something like Rasa or Roti Chennai. Martinis, fish 'n' chips, ice cream, antipasto, pizza, subs and roti: with or without swanky apartments, that sounds like a good mix to me.

7 Comments:

At 10:50 PM, June 09, 2007, Anonymous deepred said...

Hopefully the Port Café will be a worthy successor to Thorndon Seafoods (R.I.P.?).

On a side note, I've moved to Mt Vic, and I've never been more 'carbon neutral'. I now drive my car only when I want to, not when I have to. :)

 
At 12:51 PM, June 10, 2007, Anonymous erentz said...

On the "residential mix" point. I think it must depend on the "mix" as to how successful it is. The problem as I see it is developments that are too residentially focused, leaving empty spaces during the working day. Retail isn't the only other activity, there should also be office space.

I'm really impressed with what they've done with the Herd St building and the apartments though and can't wait to see the Gallery and (whatever that other building ends up being) go up. I hope they don't skimp on these (or take forever to build them).

 
At 3:11 PM, June 10, 2007, Blogger Tom said...

Deepred: "Hopefully the Port Café will be a worthy successor to Thorndon Seafoods (R.I.P.?)."

I hope so too. From what I've heard, it won't be a bog standard chippie, which means that we'll have to get used to paying a little more for fish & chips. I don't mind too much, since it'll be nice to have the option of a sit-down fish dinner with wine as well as takeaways, but they'll have to find the right price point in order to reach a wide enough market.

Erentz: "The problem as I see it is developments that are too residentially focused, leaving empty spaces during the working day. Retail isn't the only other activity, there should also be office space."

I totally agree. Having some offices (or other workplaces) there would keep the place lively during weekdays, and also make the retail businesses (especially convenience stores & lunch places) more viable.

"...can't wait to see the Gallery and (whatever that other building ends up being) go up. I hope they don't skimp on these (or take forever to build them)."

The Gallery (UN Studio building) might take some time, as it has to get central government funding. The Wardle buildings (east of Chaffers Dock) should be closer to reality, since they're more financially self-sustaining. The latest word on both is that "Concept development continues" and "Funding and occupancy solutions are currently being sought."

I think that the long-term success of the whole Waitangi Precinct, spatially, aesthetically, commercially and in terms of popularity, depends upon all of those other buildings being completed as planned. They, the park and the businesses currently opening at Chaffers Dock will feed off one another, and the balance is important. As you say, the extra daytime activity that they'll bring will be a vital part of the mix.

 
At 8:06 AM, June 11, 2007, Blogger CC Vince said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 8:09 AM, June 11, 2007, Blogger CC Vince said...

It is nice to have more places aside from the little Dockies/Shed 5 corner to visit on wanders along the waterfront.
My only question is, will everyone have to continue risking life and limb crossing the 6 lanes of jervois quay (or like many others no doubt risking the exiting cars by the new world car park) to get to these new places? Having sprinted across that road a number of times I do have to wonder if there is still enough access for people to the waterfront to help make any new developments successful.

 
At 11:24 AM, June 11, 2007, Anonymous erentz said...

That 6-lanes will become 4-lanes now the bypass is in place right? Ha.. ha.. Ok so it wont.

There will be better connectivity with Civic Sq once the new bridge to Taranaki Wharf is built. The intersection at Queens Wharf isn't too bad, IMHO the biggest issue with waterfront access there is it just isn't inviting, the raised ground level, and the big QW Complex buildings just don't draw people over. OTOH the new crossing that will go in at Johnston St to the North Queens Wharf development will prove to be more inviting from looking at its design I think. (Though its still raised a little bit.)

Busy roads aren't such a problem if there is something drawing people across them (at least from my personal experience/perspective). Perhaps once the North of Courtenay (NoCo?) area becomes occupied by more apartments, cafes, shops, bowling alleys, there will be less of a dead-zone between Courtenay and the Park to cross which will make it feel much closer to the city.

 
At 12:26 PM, June 11, 2007, Blogger Tom said...

"That 6-lanes will become 4-lanes now the bypass is in place right? Ha.. ha.. Ok so it wont."

Yeah, I'm still really pissed off by this: I don't think there was ever any serious intention to reduce the number of lanes.

"The intersection at Queens Wharf isn't too bad, IMHO the biggest issue with waterfront access there is it just isn't inviting, the raised ground level, and the big QW Complex buildings just don't draw people over."

I've hardly even noticed the raised ground level at QW: to my mind, it's the lack of attractions at QW, combined with the looong, unsheltered wait for a crossing, that makes the crossing uninviting.

"the new crossing that will go in at Johnston St to the North Queens Wharf development will prove to be more inviting from looking at its design I think."

I think so, too. The combination of lots going on at Kumutoto, with a visually improved crossing and the fact that there are things going on on Johnston St to attract people along it, will help a lot.

"Busy roads aren't such a problem if there is something drawing people across them (at least from my personal experience/perspective)."

I think both can make a difference. It's a question of benefits vs cost for the pedestrian, and the more the attraction on the other side of the road, the more they're likely to put up with in terms of time and inconvenience. Just halving the time in between crossing phases could make a big difference.

"Perhaps once the North of Courtenay (NoCo?) area becomes occupied by more apartments, cafes, shops, bowling alleys, there will be less of a dead-zone between Courtenay and the Park to cross which will make it feel much closer to the city."

That's the other big component, and it's one reason why I think Kumutoto will do a lot better than the original, ill-fated QW developments. Back then, Featherston St was a dead zone: now it's got arguably better shopping than Lambton Quay and a whole bunch of bars. There are also a whole lot more workers (in Maritime House, the Wool House extension, the upcoming extension to the Tower building, and at Kumutoto itself) for whom the waterfront is at least as accessible as Lambton Quay.

As you say, there are signs of the same happening north of Courtenay, reducing the dead zone that's as much of a psychological barrier as the roads. There really still needs to be some urban design work done, though, to make it less of an obstacle course to get from Courtenay Pl to Chaffers Dock.

 

Post a Comment

<< Home