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

Monday, August 14, 2006

Market movements

It's interesting to hear your mixture of views on potential waterfront markets for Wellington. I've probably muddied the waters a bit by referring to my suggestion as a "market", and the word "deli" might be closer to what I had in mind. Either that, or something like Auckland's Nosh, but in a convenient location rather than in whatever Wellington's equivalent of Glen Innes would be.

The NZX building with animated electronic signsOn the other hand, the NZX building is now very visibly the home of a quite different sort of market, as the scrolling signs make clear. The signs were moderately controversial, and I had mixed feelings about them myself: I thought they would be better in Courtenay Place (after all, the New York equivalents are in Times Square rather than Wall St) and I didn't see the need for the council to pay for them. However, they certainly animate a dull façade, and of the twelve passers-by that the Capital Times interviewed about them, only two were against it while one was ambivalent. I just hope the council finds some interesting alternative uses for them to justify the public expenditure (hmm, I can sense another post coming up...).

The new location of Mr Chan's supermarket in Wakefield StBut back to actual markets. Last week, Deepred drew my attention to the fact that the former A-mart site has been suddenly vacated. Mr Chan's market has shifted to a site in Wakefield St that used to house a BMW dealership, and should help solidify the Wakefield/Tory corner as the centre of a little foodie precinct. (Update: Mr Chan's seems to be closed again.) The Chinese Barbeque joint has moved to the Wakefield Markets next to the Rialto, though that site itself may not be around for long. And there's no sign of the much-loved Thordon Seafoods, though I'm crossing my fingers that it might re-open at Chaffers Dock, as the site between Waitangi Park and the marina would be a fantastic location for a fish 'n' chips shop.

The A-mart site is owned by Chris Parkin, a former city councillor and owner of the adjacent Museum Hotel and apartments. I heard some time ago that there were plans to redevelop the site (presumably as apartments), but I don't know whether he intends to keep the ground floor for something similar to A-mart or try some other (more lucrative) type of retail. As always, rumours, gossip and scuttlebutt are welcome.

And then yesterday, it caught fire. Interestingly, the news reports speak as if the market were still active ("a popular fruit market"), whereas it's been empty for over two weeks. They mention that the mezzanine "may require repair work", which seems at odds with what I presumed to be imminent demolition.

Even if the existing building is demolished, I'd love to see something like A-mart continue on the site, but with more stalls and open at night: the sort of (licensed!) food court of which Tze Ming would approve. With a more active edge to the streets and a decent verandah, it would do a lot to improve connections between Courtenay Place and Waitangi Park. So, there's a chance that all of this change could be positive for Wellington, but I'll have to reserve judgement until the actual plans emerge.

Update: it's going to be a booze barn, at least for now. See here for details.


At 8:40 am, August 15, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

it is simply AMAZING how many fires mysteriously catch alight in un-wanted buildings. Couldn't possibly be arson could it...? Oh dear me, we'll just have to rebuild, ooooh, about 20 stories higher? Think of those unimpeded views... think of those luxury apartments, think of those absentee owners who might be able to afford such an apartment... think of it being painted black to match the hotel...

At 9:07 am, August 15, 2006, Blogger Tom said...

I wasn't sure whether to mention that. It does seem to happen amazingly often, like it did in Vivian St. On the other hand, I don't think there was any impediment to the building being demolished and the site redeveloped anyway: it's not a historic building. So there wouldn't seem to be any benefit to be gained from an "accidental" fire.

The height limit on that site is approximately 5 storeys, but height limits haven't made much difference in the past. I don't really mind buildings painted black: it's better that the sickly greens, muddy beiges and cheesy yellows that seem so prevalent.

At 10:13 am, August 15, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To come to the defence of developers (something I do rarely), vacant buildings Do attract a lot of 'undesirable' activity, as they are not usually under any surveillance, and sometimes only weakly secured. Fires can start as a result of squatters trying to keep warm, or simply from a few fag ends dropped by your local tagger.

But this is pure speculation, and speculation can be unfairly damaging (all round), so it becomes important to watch what you say in a very public (and successful) forum such as this!

At 10:47 am, August 15, 2006, Blogger Tom said...

Yes, I don't think there's anything really suspicious about this case. There have been all sorts of dodgy case in the past where protected buildings
"accidentally" burn or fall down, but I don't think there's much call for speculation this time.

I'm quite happy for apartments to be built here, just as long as some interesting public use is retained on the ground floor. If Chris Parkin wants to "give something back" to the city, I'd suggest that rather than funding public sculptures (as nice as they can be), he'd consider supporting a lively but less than optimally lucrative retail venture at street level.


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