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

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Up the Quays

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Proposed building sites at Harbour QuaysWhile I still have my doubts about the Harbour Quays development, there are signs that the outlook might be improving. First of all, there's the news in today's Dominion Post that the indoor stadium will indeed be going ahead near there. While the article only refers to "a deal to look at the implications of an alternative design that would be acceptable to CentrePort", the tone of the article and the quotes from CentrePort and the mayor sound very positive. The stadium will have to be redesigned, but it sounds like it should be possible to accommodate all 12 courts without impinging upon the port operations. I know that some council officers are very keen on ensuring a high-quality design for the stadium, but I still worry that the extra costs from all this dithering will force a cheap & nasty approach.

Secondly, while I've yet to see any detailed images of the new BNZ building, and what I have seen was not encouraging from a design perspective, at least it's in the right part of the site. Along with Waterloo Tower and other new buildings it'll help fill in the gap between the Stats building and the rest of the CBD. The latest press release says that "the ground floor will be occupied by retail tenants compatible with the building use", and while it's hard to tell exactly what that means, if the new building provides an active, sheltered edge to Waterloo Quay it'll help it feel a little more like a city street rather than a semi-industrial wasteland.

Thirdly, the Central Area Review means that Harbour Quays, referred to as the "Port Redevelopment Precinct" for planning purposes, will actually have to come under some design and planning scrutiny, a process that didn't apply to the Stats building. It has always had a masterplan (368kB PDF), but that was purely voluntary, and under the new district plan Harbour Quays will have to stick to it. It's a bit too low and open for my liking (full of "streets" and "promenades" that look suspiciously like elongated carparks), but at least there's a commitment to elements such as active edges and mixed use that should take it away from the "office park" typology.

While these developments don't go as far as the Kemp Report's recommendations, the combination of adding non-office use, starting at the south and applying urban design principles should go a long way towards making this an extension of the CBD rather than an isolated office monoculture. I'm still in partial agreement with Vibrant Wellington's John Feast in today's Dominion Post opinion piece (not online: it's a low Stuff-to-print ratio today!) when he calls for more public input into the potential uses of the land, and that there should be a residential component there.

However, I think it's a bit cynical for him to try to align himself with Waterfront Watch by comparing the Harbour Quays buildings to the Hilton and other controversial proposals. I also think his claim that "the CentrePort development will damage inner Wellington's vibrancy" doesn't stand up in the light of the Kemp Report ("any loss in office employees frequenting the retail heart ... will be more than offset by the increase in ... residents") or even the report that Vibrant Wellington comissioned themselves. For instance, as I've said before, the increased office space due to Harbour Quays will be more than met by increased demand. If you can interpolate from the 10,000 extra FTEs predicted by the NZIER over the next 15 years, by the time the 1000 BNZ staff move into their building in 2009, Wellington will need space for 2000 extra workers. If Harbour Quays is done well enough and gradually enough, Wellington can handle it.


At 6:47 pm, November 02, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom, have you seen any plans of the BNZ ground hugger yet? I have a suspicion that it completely ignores the proposed masterplan (which had about 3 buildings here, with viewshafts through), and instead just crashes along the foreshore, blocking out all views as it goes.

I may be wrong. I have no spies at Jasmax. But soemone from there could come clean and post a plan to refute the allegation that theirs is the ugliest block of extra large cheese that ever sat upon these hallowed shores.....

At 3:03 pm, November 03, 2006, Blogger Tom said...

I've asked Jasmax for plans or images, and they suggested I ask the clients (either BNZ or Harbour Quays), so I've been pursuing them.

The rendering in the Dom was so fuzzy it was hard to tell what went where, and yes, it looked rather appalling. The new press release says "It is to be made up of three blocks linked by atriums providing a sense of openness and spaciousness", so perhaps it'll be more delicate and articulated than the rendering suggested, but I'm not holding my breath.

As for views, I'd suggest that it's a part of Waterloo Quay where people don't exactly stroll leisurely while enjoying the vista. If I had to walk along there to a job at Harbour Quays, I'd much prefer the shelter of a collonade (as prescribed by the plan) to having wide-open views.

At 10:52 pm, November 05, 2006, Blogger Land Rovers Indoor Football Club said...

The indoor stadium needs to be somewhere more accessible than that - like roughly where Shed 1 is today. Does someone think our indoor footy team is fit enough to run back to work all the way from down near The Stadium.

At 9:36 am, November 06, 2006, Blogger Tom said...

Maximus: is that what you think they're doing? Getting the consent now before the plan changes are binding?

I absolutely agree with you about the public/private issues (though I'm not so fussed about views): an atrium is not really "public", even if most of the public is "allowed" there some of the time.

Then again, doesn't the land itself remain in CentrePort's ownership? If that were the case, even the "public" squares and parks would be private, in the sense that the owner could legally chuck out anyone they don't like the look of (like Canary Wharf). If that's the case, then the whole complex really is a "business park" rather than part of the city.

Land Rovers: I agree; that's why I suggested that the stadium be at the southern end of Harbour Quays (before the BNZ building was announced), or at Clifton Tce (which was apparently seriously considered until the land owner flatly refused. Shed 1 is a pretty good location for indoor sports, but indoor sports is not such a good use for Shed 1.

Perhaps once the indoor stadium is built, it'll take over the major basketball and netball games from the TSB Arena, leaving that free for football etc. There's also another potential location that I'm thinking of, but I'll have to spend a bit more time on that one.

At 1:45 pm, November 07, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I look at the harbour quays development from a marine professionals point of view and have serious concerns that vital port facilities are going to be lost and not replaced. I don't see any reference in the Masterplan to setting aside sufficient land to enable ongoing marine activity in this area. Indeed looking at the plan they are suggesting a boardwalk and plaza right across the bottom of Glasgow Wharf where Strait Shipping (Bluebridge) operate from. There's no way that you can mix a ferry loads of trucks, campers and cars with joggers and prams on a boardwalk that goes straight across where the ramp where they load and unload.

Wellington is stuck with the same problem as any other port city in the world (although not as bad as Auckland). The port has all the waterfront land that is now the most valuable in the city and is wanted for development and public access. It's not really surprising that port wants to make a quick buck by selling the land (after all the board is almost exclusively property developers and financiers, with no marine presence) but it could have long term implications for the viability of coastal shipping.

I agree that this is a natural area to develop the city into and that it would help link up and bring life into the barren industrial land between the stadium and city. However, there needs to be some though given to where ferries will operate from in the future. There is very likely to be a growth in coastal shipping around New Zealand in the coming years. Most of that growth will be in freight ferries and small container ships, both of which need specialised berths.

In the case of the ferries this means finger piers and being able to back onto a berth, as exists at harbour quays (as well as plenty of space for parking and marshalling loads - each ship can take up to 2km of wagons). It is therefore important that space is identified within the port for developing alternative ferry facilities.

I understand that in teh Northern Gateway plan there may be some land set aside at Kaiwharawhara (next to the existing Interislander terminal) for the development of a new ferry port. If this is the case it should be confirmed and plans developed. Until that is done, some care needs to be taken that vital parts of the port are not sold off potentially critically restricting existing coastal shipping and preventing any future development to shift more freight from our roads to the coast. This is particularly important in Wellington where almost all North Island / South Island freight passes through.


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