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

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

A sporting chance

When I first wrote in favour of replacing Shed 1 with a hotel, I included the caveat that the current indoor sports users should be found a new home. After all, the Waitangi Park development includes a skate park and market space, thereby catering for the only groups who used the old Chaffers site. However, it now appears that no such provision has been made, and the current users are getting angry.

The sportspeople object to the claim that the Hilton would "bring life to the area", saying that there is plenty of life there already, with an estimated 400 people using it every weekday. But the fact that they have to point this out shows that this liveliness is not visible from the outside: it all happens in a closed shed that presents an uninviting face to the world. It's also only in use for a fraction of the time, and the players are presumably not there for the view. But where could we find an alternative location within walking distance of the CBD?

It turns out that there is a very large space right next to the CBD that is not being used to its potential. Underneath the section of motorway west of the Terrace , between the Cable Car and the underpass to Woodward St, there is an enormous empty volume:

Under the motorway, between Kelburn and the TerraceWith very little structural work, this could be transformed into an enclosed space suitable for a range of activities. The biggest job would be putting in a raised platform above the car park. Cheap lightweight walls could be suspended from the sides of the motorway above, and if these were made from a translucent material like polycarbonate, they could let in some natural light while providing passers by with a glimpse of the activity inside.

Converting the space under the motorway into an indoor sports venueThe result wouldn't be flash, and it wouldn't be insulated, but the same applies to Shed 1 and as the sportspeople say, they love it the way it is. I haven't been there with a tape measure to see whether it would be wide enough, but it looks just about as wide as the Sheds, and it's four times as long as the usable part of Shed 1. This could be built in stages, eventually allowing plenty of space for other sports (e.g. badminton, tennis) and events over time.

It may seem unfair to shove the sportspeople into the dingy space beneath the motorway, but overseas it's quite common to make use of such spaces for all sorts of purposes. This location also has some advantages over Queens Wharf: plenty of parking, Cable Car access and proximity to the walking tracks beside Clifton Terrace. It's also actually closer to Lambton Quay than Queens Wharf is, with easy access via Woodward St and its Terrace underpass.

Location of motorway compared to Queens Wharf
This is not a zero-cost option, but it's certainly cheap compared to purpose-built facilities and it makes use of a space that would otherwise have little use. While I still believe that a hotel with its attendant restaurants and bars would be a much better use of the Shed 1 site than its current use, I also believe that an indoor sports facility in the CBD is an asset to the city. So, perhaps it should be made a condition of the Hilton development that the developers and council fund the conversion of this alternative space.


At 4:28 pm, November 09, 2005, Blogger Hadyn said...

As someone who drives in on the weekend and uses those free carparks. I accept only on the proviso that my cheapskate ways are preserved.

At 4:36 pm, November 09, 2005, Blogger Tom said...

My idea is to keep the carparks, but build the floor of the sports facility as a platform above them.

Or how about this as a proviso: that there's a decent weekend bus service to Houghton Bay.

At 5:01 pm, November 09, 2005, Blogger s. said...

You're a genius. Much though I love the "secret garden" of Clifton terrace and the backside of the Terrace, I think you're onto something good.

At 10:54 pm, November 09, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Spot on, Tom.

This would be an elegant solution, now if only Wellington City Council had had the courtesy to consider the sport's people before off-handly announcing plans to just do away with a treasured city facility and build the Hilton.....

At 12:34 am, November 10, 2005, Blogger David said...

Looks like a death trap in an earthquake. Just like another Oakland.

At 9:08 pm, November 10, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A fantastic idea! They have done something similar in Notting Hill which goes to show what the potential could be:


At 1:03 pm, November 18, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A very exciting concept!

At 3:41 pm, March 07, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that that space under the motorway would be a perfect location for a new railway terminus nearer the central city. It has good links to the CBD and the cable car and being narrow and long would be perfect for a railway station.


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