Waterfront: reasons to be cheerful
The Draft Waterfront Development Plan for 2007/08 is going through the public consultation stage, but there's nothing too surprising in there. If anything, there's been something of a backward step, since the financial implications of delays to the OPT and Hilton developments have had a flow-on effect to the Taranaki St Wharf West and Frank Kitts Park redevelopments.
Never mind: there are some other parts of the waterfront that are making excellent progress. The Meridian building is expected to be completed in October, with the surrounding public spaces all ready for December, and I've heard that ground floor tenants have been secured. Now that the overall shape of the building is visible and the cladding is going on, it's looking even better than I imagined. The wooden louvres are being installed on the western pavilion, and I was surprised to find that they have a semi-random arrangement, with a variety of widths to give the façade plenty of animation. Actually, "animation" will be a much more literal description here than it usually is in that context, since the louvres will automatically tilt throughout the day to provide light or shade as required. It's that sort of combination of environmental practicality and imaginative detail, not to mention the emphasis on buildings that create and support public space rather than ignore or callously feed off it, that restores my rather dented confidence in the ability of architecture to bring delight to the city.
At the other end of the waterfront, the ground floor of Chaffers Dock continues to gradually open up: Subway and Herd Street Brasserie have been open for a while now, Mövenpick opened on Saturday, and I've heard that the Port Café may open as soon as this weekend. While the weather may not exactly be conducive to ice creams or fish 'n' chips in the park, all it takes is a rare fine day like Saturday and Wellingtonians are out in force. As expected, Mövenpick is fairly chain-like in appearance, with plastic tables and a huge oddly-coloured photo-mural of the Wellington skyline, but the offer of Supreme coffee and opening well into the evening for dessert is a pleasant prospect. The last remaining "For Lease" sign has gone, and the word is that it may be a pizza joint. I've already mentioned Zarbo deli, Empire Skate and Chaffers Store, and there will also be a hairdressers and some sort of gallery. It's already an encouraging example of residential, hospitality and recreational uses supporting one another, and given how popular the place is already on a pleasant day, it should be really humming by summertime.