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

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Street evolution: Taranaki St

This city has some great streets, and some fairly mediocre ones, and Taranaki Street would be lucky to count among the latter. It's focus has always been on traffic rather than pedestrian amenity, much of it is lined with car dealerships or blank bulk-retail outlets, and there's been a rash of inappropriate, thoughtless and just plain hideous apartment developments of the sort that give density a bad name. Now that part of it has ceased to be State Highway 1, and with the controversial NZ Memorial Park provoking an extension of the "Greening the Quays" project along much of its length, there may at last be some improvements to its physical environment. However, it has always struggled to attract any of Courtenay Place's vitality, especially towards the south.

Cubita cafe in Taranaki StThere are some small but encouraging signs, however. Cubita has just opened around the corner from Burger Fuel, opening up what one commenter described as "the most foul elevation to Taranaki St - blank white hardies sheets with nasty external wiring" and turning it into a pleasantly active edge. It's just a tiny little hole-in-the wall café, with room for fewer than a dozen tiny tables, but it's a bold step towards enlivening this stretch of street. It's right next to the bus stop, so the wall no longer "treats bus users like savages" as the same commenter said, but offers a place to sit and have a coffee instead.

So far, it just does coffee and cake, and has no license or real kitchen, but it plans to open late every night and offer live music on Sundays. Some people may yawn at the rather well-worn Cuban theme, but they've done a good job of bringing some character to a building that Gerry Melling famously described as a "classic [example] of an architecture which has croaked in the chrysalis of its third-rate, third-hand, two-dimensional representation".

Pizza King logo, Taranaki StNext door, in a retail space that was very briefly home to a pharmacy but has otherwise struggled, something called "Pizza King" is about to open. There are plenty of pizza vendors around the world with that name, but I'm not sure whether it's part of a chain: does anyone recognise the logo? The signs that have appeared so far don't give me any reason to think it might rival Scopa or Pomodoro for quality, but still, it's a lot better than a blank wall.

These are just two very tentative steps, but it's a sign that Taranaki St might not forever be doomed to pedestrian-hostile blankness. The Film Archive has brought life to the Ghuznee St corner, and if that street gains any benefit from being bypassed, then some of that might also spread through to Taranaki. There's still a long way to go before it becomes an attractive streetscape (a consistent six stories of shops and apartments would help, as would some benches and small trees along the pavement to complement the larger ones planned for the median), but we may at least get some more street-level activity, and it's brave small businesses like this that are leading the way.


At 6:01 pm, June 03, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i love it, love it, love it! lets home it spreads up the street. I have hopes southern taranaki maybe become the new "poor businesses" district, now that Upper Willis is so Bypass-ised.

At 6:51 pm, June 03, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe it's a second branch of the Pizza King in Karori (?). Strictly speaking, it's not a chain, but the owner used to have a couple of Pizza Havens around the place and just de-franchised himself.

At 8:45 pm, June 03, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the pedestrian crossing at the Taranaki-Ghuznee T-junction can be double-tracked, that would be another first step to making Taranaki St more pedestrian friendly.

If there absolutely must be a car dealership in the area, the least that can be done would be to turn it into an indoor showroom with modular design, so that it can be built on top of. It's been done with the Portal Apartments on Cable St.

At 11:27 am, June 04, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think the greening the Quays project will be extended up Taranaki street. As somebody else pointed out, why is the council currently putting in concrete traffic islands up Taranaki street if the were just going to pull them out later on

At 12:36 pm, June 04, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

is it just me, or does the Pizza King logo have the appearance of a Monsters Inc type scary monster with two rolling eyes and a big crown / big teeth?

No? Just me then?

It is about the windiest spot in Welly though, at times. Some well designed wind breaks along there might hurt their pizza sales....

At 12:45 pm, June 04, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

duh... hurt? i meant help....

i'm still confident that the greeening of the 'Naki street will still take place. The competition for the right to design the Memorial Park is inviting applicants as we speak. Shouldn't be all that hard to extend the concept into a lineal park / boulevard for Taranaki St for all those clever landscape architects out there.

And they have only just opened up the 2nd lane northwards at junction with Vivian St - shows that if it has been functioning fine for the last 2 months without a second lane, it didn't really need it anyway... anyone from Transit ever read this? You guys paying attention ? You could learn something from all this ! ie stop desinging such terrible pedestrian-unfriendly intersections!

At 2:45 pm, June 04, 2007, Blogger Tom said...

Michael: I wondered about that, since I found something in Karori after a bit of Googling. I wasn't sure if it was the same owners, though, so it's good to know. From their typography and other graphics, I think it's fair to say that they're not aiming at the "gourmet pizza" market.

DeepRed: yes, it would be great if the Taranaki/Ghuznee intersection was made a bit better for pedestrians (and even for cars turning right into Ghuznee, which seems like a nightmare at the moment), but I'm not holding my breath. And you're right: there's nothing to stop a car dealership being the ground floor of a multi-storey building, as in the (soon to be demolished) Williams & Adams dealership across the road. The redevelopment of the Avery Ford dealership was such a wasted opportunity in that regard.

Anon: I'm with Maximus, in that I think there's every reason to believe that "The Greening of the 'Naki" will occur. From the council news story:

"Mayor Prendergast said she would also take a proposal to Council to extend the boulevard of trees on Aotea Quay up Taranaki Street to ensure the Park and precinct has an entrance befitting of a national memorial.

'...If Council agrees to such a proposal, it will take about five years to implement as the work would need to be done in conjunction with upgrades of our stormwater network up Taranaki Street,' Mayor Prendergast says."

The traffic islands currently under construction would only be a small part of the set of medians required for such a greening, and with luck it shouldn't be too hard to modify them later to accommodate a tree or two.

At 3:11 pm, June 04, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Run a light rail line up the street. Would help develop the street, and be awesome to boot. :)

At 9:39 pm, June 04, 2007, Blogger mikeymike said...

hell yes!!
it'd be great to see a stop/station bang outside each of those two glitzy car dealers...


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