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

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Brave New World

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New World Metro at the Wellington railway stationWith plenty of hoopla, including three full pages in the Dominion Post, New World opened their fourth inner-Wellington store this week. It's a New World Metro at the the railway station, and while it looks tiny from the concourse, it expands Tardis-like into the forgotten parts of the station and is actually larger than the Willis St Metro. While some people are unhappy about it, including the proprietors of the old kiosk that it replaced, I can only say: about time!

In Europe, urban railway stations are full of mini-supermarkets, restaurants, small shops and other amenities. Of course, over there they're used for much more inter-city travel and are more like airports than the glorified bus stops we're used to, but with tens of thousands of commuters passing through every day it deserved more than a kiosk, dodgy hot-dog vendor and crummy old pub. As well as making life easier for commuters (and thus possibly saving a few shopping trips by car), it will no doubt be welcomed by local workers, students and residents, and it should be a lifesaver for the poor sods stuck out at Harbour Quays. Personally, I'll just be glad that when I go to visit my drinking buddies marooned in the suburbs, there's somewhere on the way with a good selection of wine, beer and cheese!

Most people won't want to brave the supermarket queues just to get a coffee or paper, but New World is also about to open a new kiosk in the grand old booking hall. As Rosemary Howell said in My Wellington, "[The] booking hall - the most architecturally striking part of the building, is sadly underused. ... So, why not use this space as a booking hall, as intended? Why not include a quality café with terrace-style seating? Why not install information services for tourists?" The new kiosk will go some way towards ensuring that one of Wellington's greatest interior spaces actually gets some life.

I hope that as part of the wider renovations, some good use is found for the old kiosk space closer to the platforms. Presumably the previous occupants were given the boot to ensure New World a monopoly over station patrons, but I'm sure some sort of vendor or service could be found that complements rather than competes with the supermarket. Now all we need is to do something about Trax, and Wellington's public transport hub will acquire the dignity, functionality and vitality that it deserves.


At 7:12 am, December 08, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

from whinging journal, "good luck finding somewhere to buy your snacks from".

you mean... other than the supermarket?

At 1:18 pm, December 08, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"...and it should be a lifesaver for the poor sods stuck out at Harbour Quays"

I think it could probably turn a profit on SNZ morning teas alone.

At 2:57 pm, December 08, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

With The New World, along with the refurbishment occuring in the main concourse and the new bus terminal and subway that was upgraded a couple of years ago, The station will have finally dragged out of its malise and abandonment.

Maybe Toll would like to go back into the booking office at the far end opposite the new kiosk and use it as the check-in area for the Overlander they seem keen to promote, rather than having a huge queue line up in the main concourse....

At 3:32 pm, December 09, 2006, Blogger Tom said...

Che, I think the whinging journal was referreing to the month-long hiatus between the kiosk closing and the Metro opening.

Anon, I totally agree. There's potential for much better space management than the current situation, not to mention better passenger information.

At 10:56 pm, December 10, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i always thought the empty car park across bunny street woudl be a perfect place for a normal sized supermarket. Previously it was a muddy puddle that some people shortcutted through and nothing more.

The railway station lobby seems more suited to boutique stores, but that never happened. There's apartment blocks on that carpark now.

At 9:02 am, December 11, 2006, Blogger Tom said...

The site directly across Bunny St from the station is going to be a huge office block rather than apartments. It's the site just along Featherston, up to the corner with Whitmore, that's nearly completed as the Holiday Inn: a hotel, but with some permanent apartments included.

The architecture of the railway station booking hall would have made it a lovely environment for boutique shops, but I guess the main customer base at the station is commuters and students, so something more mundane and practical was called for. Only a tiny proportion of the supermarket protrudes into the public area, and the rest has been fitted into what I gather was a mix of old toilets, offices and storerooms. There's probably still room for a couple of small boutiques around the hall, which would be very nice. Overall, with retail planned for the ground floors of both the Bunny St offices and the Holiday Inn, that whole area is set to be transformed: probably for the better.


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