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

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Post Meridian

Meridian Energy moved into their brand new building nearly a month ago, and it's been receiving plenty of praise, including a nomination in The Wellingtonista Awards for best building in Wellington. But there's still a lot going on in the ground floor of the building and in the adjacent public spaces, and I'm now in the position to confirm some juicy rumours that I've been hearing for a while.

The upright section of the bridge at Kumutoto - nearing completionFirst, though, a quick update on progress with the public space. Work on the tug wharf promenade and its associated new bridge is newly complete, and should reopen to the public next Wednesday. Work on the Kumutoto "stream mouth" declamation and its surrounding spaces will take a little bit longer, but once the construction area starts to shrink, Kumutoto Plaza (or whatever it will end up being officially named) should start to be a more attractive space to linger in.

The new Mojo in the western annex should help that as well, and at the moment they are hoping to open before Christmas. The schedule's pretty tight, though, and if there are any delays it looks like it won't open until January. A peek through the door reveals a large, curved central bar with what looks like a mezzanine on top (though that may just be storage), and if it's up to the usual Mojo standards (as their new Bond St branch is) it should be something to look forward to.

I'm now allowed to confirm the rumoured tenants for the larger, harbour-side section of the building. The northern end, with the best sun and views, will be a branch of Wagamama. As one can tell from the mixture of comments on the Wellingtonista after Wagamama was nominated as one of the things that Wellington most needs, that will no doubt divide people between those who think that the last thing we need is another international chain and those who are fans of their overseas branches and can't wait to get noodle-slurping. Personally, I think that a cheapish and casual yet reasonably stylish (i.e. better designed than the Port Café) Asian restaurant/bar would be a great complement to the other waterfront dining options.

Meridian building and Kumutoto from the northeastThe southern end will have two tenants: a replacement ticket office for the East by West Ferry, and an Eon Design Centre. I remember Eon when they were just a stylish little furniture shop in Kingsland, but by all accounts their Britomart design centre is something that interior design junkies drool over. As a showcase for contemporary New Zealand design by the likes of Fletcher Vaughan, Esther Diamond and David Trubridge, it could be a destination shop that a lot of people will be excited about. I've just dug up a submission I made back in 2004 about Kumutoto, and this was one of my suggestions for the type of retail that would work there:

Gather the best of local design (fashion, furniture, homeware) and culture (books, magazines, music, art) and sell them in a shop that provides a combined "shop window" for other outlets around the city (e.g. Mandatory, Starfish, Portfolio, Unity Books) as well as new artists and designers. In that sense, it's a bit like the Te Papa shop, but not quite as "souvenir" oriented. Add a combined newsagent and coffee stand (similar to Magnetix on Midland Park), an office that provides advice and promotion for new enterprises, and you could have a showcase for Wellington creativity that also provides practical services and products.

Eon won't be quite that, but given that the Auckland version sells some clothes and books as well as furniture and homeware, it's getting close. I'd like to see them perhaps collaborate with Meridian upstairs and to create a section with a sustainable theme (solar powered gadgets, recycled materials etc).

I don't know when these three tenancies will open, but I hope it's not too far into the new year to miss all of summer. In any case, it looks like Kumutoto is really starting to come along as a proper mixed-use precinct.


At 8:36 pm, November 22, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looks like Mojo won't be open until early Jan now. Upper level will be a meeting room, along the same lines as the back rooms at Bond St.

At 12:38 pm, November 23, 2007, Blogger Seamonkey Madness said...

Wagamama = excellent, cheap (in London as I remember), quick, asian eats.

The waterfront setting will be reminiscent to their Tower of London site, looking out of over water.


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