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

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Building rumours 3: round-up

I was going to bring you some more building rumours, but I've just started looking at 35 pages of district plan change (293kB PDF) that could have a big impact on future development in the central city after they go to the council's Strategy & Policy meeting tomorrow. The new rules are generally more restrictive on height and bulk than the current policy, but I'll have to read it more thoroughly before I consider the impact. In the meantime, here's a quick update on some previous rumours.

First, the Il Casino site has indeed been sold. There was a property ad in yesterday's Dominion Post (page C4) with a photo of the famous mural and the following caption:
Sold for a premium price, signalling the end of an era, pictured here Joseph Lupi & Cav Remiro Bresolin shake hands outside the famous site, that has now sold to a reputable Wellington property developer. Successfully negotiated by Joseph, the site is a record sale for the area for development land, Joseph states "he is extremely pleased for both the vendor who has achieved a premium price and also for the developer who has agreed that the site is of premium value for a future development".

I'll leave it up to you to work out what phrases like "end of an era", "development land" and "reputable Wellington property developer" (no guffaws, please) imply.

On my previous post, Simon commented that the El Cheapo car yard on upper Cuba St is rumoured to be temporary, with "an apartment building built to max-height with retail at ground floor" the longer term future for the site. Correction: as Simon pointed out, it's actually the fish factory between Lorne and Tennyson streets that's being developed, and the long term fate of the fish shop and car yard site in Cuba St is still unknown.

Gordon also drew my attention to an article about the old A-mart site, which Chris Parkin has sold to Foodstuffs. They will refurbish it as a branch of their new Duffy & Finns chain of liquor megastores, opening about the middle of next year. They are also talking of a multistorey retail and apartment complex on the site, but they'll take several years to plan it.

They even say that "it will be important to liaise with council, landowners and other stakeholders to produce the very best design concept and best range of uses", which is a very encouraging sentiment, though we can be forgiven a touch of scepticism. Foodstuffs also said that the adjacent New World will get a big refurbishment in 2007. Any chance that they'll look for "the very best design concept" there as well and relocate to the western half of the site, thus reopening the viewshaft down Cambridge Tce? We can always hope...


At 5:07 pm, September 06, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry Tom that was my mistake - I thought you were referring to the fish factory on Lorrne St -which is being developed into a Max-height apartment building with ground floor retail. not too sure of the plans for the site next to Fidel's....I should have followed your zoomin link

At 10:07 pm, September 06, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I haven't read the district plan yet, but I fear that if Wellington gets it wrong on height limits, we could end up with the worst of both worlds - low-density urban sprawl Auckland/L.A. style, and cheesy tourist-trappish beachfront apartments like those on the Gold Coast.

If Wellington Airport manages to pull it off with the B787 and A350, and Wellington's population growth increases from current levels as a result, wouldn't it only just put upward pressure on height limits?

I'm all for heritage value - it's made the Aro Valley what it is - but not to the point where it leads to low-density museumification. If there was only one area where height limits should be applied with vigour, it would be the area directly on the waterfront.

Perhaps the council could do worse than to take a closer look at Vancouver, a prime example of high density done right. At the end of the day, height isn't the problem, dodgy architecture is.

At 9:22 am, September 07, 2006, Blogger Tom said...

Simon: thanks for the correction. I've made the appropriate amendment.

deepred: I share your concerns, and agree that tall buildings in the right place are a valid and valuable contribution to urbanism. It's quite hard to work out what the net effect of the changes will be, since the base rules seem to be more restrictive but with more room for discretion and with more scope for aesthetic judgement on the part of planners. That could be just what we need, or a complete disaster! I'm also glad to see that some areas have minimum height limits as well as maxima.

I also agree that in general, "height isn't the problem, dodgy architecture is". I just saw Building the Gherkin last night (a word of caution: it's not 55 minutes as it says on the programme, but more like 90) and felt huge envy at cities where clients, archtitects and planners want high-rises that are adventurous and high quality rather than drab and as cheap as possible. But as much as I love the Gherkin, I wouldn't want one built next to Fidel's.

At 2:17 pm, September 11, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

tom, where are you downloading these documents off from, and who do we contact to get a copy of the District Plan change? Doesn't appear to be anywhere on the WCC website - must be hidden in the depths....

At 2:40 pm, September 11, 2006, Blogger Tom said...

The plan change document itself is not online, so all I've seen so far is the report to the strategy & policy meeting, which is linked to from the agenda page. I've found that a lot of documents are not linked to from the appropriate subject pages (i.e. the district plan pages in this case), so you have to keep your eye on the upcoming meetings.

There's generally a link at the bottom of each page on the WCC site, which pops up details of the relevant department. In this case it's the Democratic Services department, and it has an email link to public.participation@wcc.govt.nz. I sent a polite email to that address and got a prompt reply, and I'm expecting the full 500 pages of plan change in my letter box Real Soon Now.


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