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

Friday, August 10, 2007

Friday snippets

What's happening with Ferg's empire? The Dragon Boat Festival may have been saved almost straight away from what appeared to be imminent doom, but after years of promises, he's finally given up on plans for a wine bar in what should some day be West Courtenay Park. Apart from any financial considerations, according to the Dom he "felt uncomfortable with public comments against the agreement". By "public comments", I assume he's referring to Jack Ruben's outbursts late last year. This just shows that the deal that raised Ruben's ire wasn't quite as sweet for the proprietor and tough on the ratepayer as he claimed: quite the opposite in fact.

Moving on to someone with a bit more hospitality experience, John McGrath is running for Mayor. While Wednesday's Dominion Post article said nothing about his policies, there's a lot more in yesterday's Wellingtonian and in McGrath's press release. His policies include: debt reduction, rates relief for business, council amalgamation, infrastructure (which in his case means roading, especially Transmission Gully - which sits rather strangely with his other stated goal of "preserving the natural environment") and, erm, "No more Blanket man". None of which would come as a surprise to anyone familiar with the clientèle of his bars. Other than that, he's mostly just promoting himself as a marketing whiz, though even that comes with a bizarre touch when he says "I'm the man with the Mojo". Really? I knew he owned a lot of beery bars full of real estate agents and property developers, but I didn't know he'd branched out into coffee chains.

It's interesting to read that Vibrant Wellington have pulled out of their campaign against Harbour Quays. Some of that might be due to what they could count as a victory: "A big factor in the group pulling the plug was the mixed uses proposed for the site in the council's draft district plan." While the mixed uses in the plan may not be quite as diverse as the Kemp Report called for, and it'll still have some butt-ugly buildings, it's good to see that their campaign may have had some effect. On the other hand, some of the fears stirred up by Vibrant Wellington may have been a little exaggerated. It may be true that many large companies and government departments are moving away from what was the core CBD in search of newer, bigger offices, but anecdote and personal experience suggests that the old buildings are now providing much-needed small spaces for start-up businesses. Who knows: maybe Featherston St will be the new Te Aro?

At the other end of town, while it's been common knowledge for a while that the council intends the Adelaide Rd area to be one location for residential growth, the article in Tuesday's Dom contained a couple of interesting points. First, that the council would consider waiving development contributions there, as long as the savings were passed on to first-home buyers, for a potential saving of up to $15,000. That sounds reasonable to me, but I'd like to see it tied to actual reductions in infrastructure requirements: for instance, green roofs place less stress on stormwater systems by reducing runoff, so part of the reduction could be dependent on installing green roofs on the buildings. Secondly, according to planning director Ernst Zollner, "it would be low-rise developments, no more than three storeys". Three storeys seems about right for the quieter, smaller-scale residential streets up towards Tasman St, but surely a wide arterial like Adelaide Rd (which could potentially be even wider, if plans for a bus lane go ahead) could handle something more substantial. It's worth further investigation, but I'd have thought that something like six storeys along Adelaide Rd itself would not only provide greater density, but create a more attractive streetscape.


At 3:29 pm, August 10, 2007, Blogger Seamonkey Madness said...

Any word on IntensCITY at all Tom?

At 3:32 pm, August 10, 2007, Blogger Tom said...

There's now a page on the council web site, and there should be an announcement about the ABC competition very soon.


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