Growing a spine
I've mentioned the "urban spine" concept many times before, and the expectation that much of Wellington's population growth will occur along a relatively compact corridor extending from Johnsonville via the CBD and hospital to the airport. The consultation and planning process has already started for Johnsonville, and now attention is moving to the southern parts of the city with the "Adelaide Rd - Planning for the Future" process.
This project looks to the northern stretch of Adelaide Rd, from John St to the Basin, as a site for potential intensification. It's currently right at the start of the consultation process, so there's not much detail yet, but the vision is clear from the brochure (398kB PDF): "This project provides a unique opportunity to transform Adelaide Road into an exciting and vibrant urban village, incorporating a number of different land uses and activities, whilst retaining and enhancing its unique characteristics and features." For most of us who are familiar with Adelaide Rd, there wouldn't seem much worth retaining apart from a few characterful buildings scattered among the car yards and drive-throughs, but this map of the study area shows that it's much more than just Adelaide Rd itself that's being considered.
The consultation is actually looking at a much broader area, extending right up to Wallace St in the heart (such as it is) of Mt Cook. The areas around Wallace, Tasman and Hanson streets have a very different character from the light industrial/bulk retail mishmash of Adelaide Rd; one that is much more sensitive and historic, and intensification there will need to be handled very carefully.
While these early consultation documents don't mention anything as specific as height limits, there have already been some mixed messages floating around in the media. According to this week's Capital Times, "the council is considering whether to increase building height restrictions from 12m to 15-16m", into which one could conceivably fit 5-6 storeys. On the other hand, a Dominion Post article that I discussed back in August said that "it would be low-rise developments, no more than three storeys". As I said back then, three storeys might be an appropriate limit for the smaller-scale residential streets, but I see Adelaide Rd itself as being better suited by 6 storeys: more "urban" than "village".
As well as the core urban form and heritage questions, this study has to deal with connections to adjacent developments such as supermarkets and Memorial Park, and perhaps most vexedly, with transport issues. Adelaide Rd has room to expand to the east by at least one lane with very little demolition or relocation of buildings, but it would seem a waste to use the extra space for something as inefficient as private vehicles. I don't want to get anyone's hopes up, but among the images on the front page is this street section or sections:
Those things on the left look very much like light rail vehicles, so perhaps if you all go and vote for "light rail to the airport" in the Wellingtonista Award's "most needed" category, we'll have a chance of making this real!
I could write more about Adelaide Rd, but I've already covered a lot of that in my entry in the aBc competition. I just have to get around to converting it into a more web-friendly form (and by "web-friendly" I mostly mean "less than 100MB"), then I'll post that here. In the meantime, read the media release and consultation documents, and you have until the 14th of December to make your thoughts known. That may not seem long, but this is just the first stage, with a community workshop to follow next year. Even if you don't currently live or travel through there, you may want to sometime in the future, be affected by the impact of transport planning on the city as a whole, or just be glad that there's an opportunity to plan for sustainable urban growth. So get involved.