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

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

IntensCITY notes: Ian Pike

This was always going to be controversial, with the CEO of Wellington Waterfront Ltd talking about the "Our Evolving Waterfront: Wellington's growing connection to the harbour". And indeed, a contingent of Waterfront Watchers did turn up (as one could tell by the preponderance of a certain hair colour in the middle of the auditorium), though their questions at the end were relatively polite and constructive compared to some other events I've attended. Most of the talk will have been familiar territory, so I'll just post a few quick notes about upcoming changes.

Updated render of Wharewaka for Taranaki St Wharf WestWe finally got to see a render of the updated design for the Wharewaka: here's a very grainy shot of the image from his presentation. It looks pretty good: very open, with a complex and interesting roofline. Since it already has resource consent (it's no larger than the Wharenui originally planned for the site), it seems as if the start of construction might not be too far away. In that case, it'll be good to see the associated public spaces moving beyond their current temporary form.

WWL's 2007 Annual Report (downloadable from here) says of Site 7 "we are close to securing agreements with some wonderful public attractions, new to Wellington, which will also provide an active edge to the building at ground floor level." Pike confirmed that Mojo and the ticketing office for the Dominion Post ferry will be two of the ground floor tenants , and while I'm partial to Mojo caf├ęs, neither of those two businesses are exactly "new to Wellington", so I'm still wondering what else might be on the way.

For the first time (apart from hints in the Annual Report), there's confirmation that Queens Wharf square is set for some "revitalisation". Personally I think that, apart from some inactive edges, it works quite well as a space, but the report says that "without any attractions on the wharf itself, Queens Wharf acts largely as a thoroughfare from the CBD to the waterfront and vice versa". It goes on to say:
WWL is leading a group of Queens Wharf business operators and urban designers to investigate how the space can be revitalised; populated with new design features or attractions, the interface with the surrounding attractions improved, while maintaining and enhancing access and views. This work is expected to take some time but WWL has started the ball rolling by leasing some of the ground floor space at the front of the TSB Bank Arena, so it can sub-lease it to businesses that will offer an active edge and interact better with activities in Queens Wharf Square.
Pike revealed what the "active edge" will be: a (presumably small) museum "to celebrate New Zealand's sporting achievements". Some of you may be more thrilled about that than others, but any move to start replacing the remaining ground-floor offices with publicly accessible uses has to be applauded.

While the OPT development sound like it'll be under way fairly smartly (including an "artist in residence programme", which sounds like a great idea), sadly it appears that the Site 4 building by UN Studio will be a long way off: Pike said maybe 5-10 years. If that's the case, then the western side of Waitangi Park will be stuck with a diffuse and inactive edge for a long time to come.


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