I’ve discussed the City Centre Master Plan a few times on this blog previously, as it’s a pretty exciting document which seeks to transform Auckland’s City Centre from the car dominated place it is now to a truly world-class downtown, dominated by people rather than vehicles. An article in today’s NZ Herald provides a bit more information on what will be in the plan, which goes out for public consultation at the same time as the draft Auckland Plan: on September 20th.

A copy of the draft Central City Plan, marked “not to be distributed”, includes plans for temporary road closures of Queen St, then at lunchtimes within three years, followed by a staged rollout of a “shared space” where drivers have to thread their way around pedestrians.

An earlier proposal to close parts of Queen St to traffic has been abandoned because it “might be an unnecessary and overly expensive step”.

I’ve come around to also believing that a shared space might work best for Queen Street, at least in the shorter term. The article continues:

Projects that could occur over the next three years include the first steps to remove vehicles from Quay St and turn it into a waterfront boulevard, revamping Queen Elizabeth Square outside Britomart and building a cruise ship terminal on Queens Wharf.

A bit further out, there are proposals to turn the multi-lane, one-way motorway feeders of Hobson and Nelson St into “welcoming” two-way, tree-lined avenues, restore the St James Theatre and redevelop the downtown carpark as a commercial building.

The draft masterplan places a strong emphasis on making the city more pedestrian-friendly and having fewer cars, although there has been strong opposition from many businesses and property owners who fear the focus on pedestrians over other transport modes would have severe economic consequences.

One idea is to turn the abandoned Nelson St motorway off-ramp into a park connected to a new walkway-cycleway, much like New York’s High Line – a park built on abandoned railway lines above the streets of Manhattan.

Another radical and expensive idea is a land bridge over parts of Stanley St with the possibility of tennis and basketball courts, five-a-side pitches and a swimming pool to improve the connection between the city and Auckland Domain.

There are some really great ideas in there. The Hobson and Nelson street plan is remarkably similar to what I’ve been talking about for a while now, while the downtown carpark redevelopment is exciting too – particularly as it involves demolishing the Lower Hobson street viaduct: a horrible urban blight.

The final details of the City Centre Master Plan will be discussed at the Wednesday meeting of the Auckland Council Future Vision Committee. Looking through the agenda to that meeting reveals further detail of what will be in the Plan. Here’s a brief summary: It’s easy to come up with a million good ideas about how to transform Auckland’s city centre into the kind of place that the City Centre Master Plan envisages. And to an extent, the plan does have “a lot of good (and expensive) ideas”. But also, quite crucially, a number of ‘key interventions’ are also highlighted – some of which are pretty quick and cheap to implement.

Eight key initiatives are proposed by the Master Plan:

  1. Uniting the waterfront and the city centre – The north-south stitch
  2. Connecting the western edge of the city to the centre ‐ The East‐west Stitch
  3. Queen Street Valley CBD and retail district ‐ The Engine Room
  4. Nurturing an innovation and learning cradle
  5. New public transport stations and urban redevelopment opportunities at K Road, Newton and Aotea Quarter – Growth around the City Rail Link
  6. Connecting Victoria Park, Albert Park and the Domain as part of a blue – green park network The Green Link
  7. Connecting the city and the fringe – City to the villages
  8. Revitalising the waterfront water city

There are some great ideas proposed, like a linear park along a greatly narrowed Victoria Street, closing off Queen Street more often for events, better pedestrian connections across Grafton Gully, the aforementioned two-waying of Hobson & Nelson streets as well as turning Quay Street into a ‘boulevard’ within the next few years.

Priority projects, and their timeline for implementation, are outlined in the table below: I really hope this Plan can become a reality.

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  1. This is very exciting indeed. Some fantastic ideas here. If we can get most of these implemented just imagine how great Auckland could be.

  2. “An earlier proposal to close parts of Queen St to traffic has been abandoned because it “might be an unnecessary and overly expensive step”. ”

    There are lots of good ideas there. But I don’t understand why a pedestrianised Queen St should be more expensive than a shared space? At a minimum you could pedestrianise the street with about $500 worth of traffic cones, and if you’re going to do the job properly then you’re going to need about the same amount of street furniture, pavers, and trees no matter what you do with the street.

    I also don’t understand why a cruise ship terminal is back on the agenda. If the cruise ship industry wants one then they should buy a site and build one. It shouldn’t be on a city plan.

    1. Honestly I think the expense issue with Queen St is probably a cover for the fact that business owners are opposed to pedestrianisation. I agree that full pedestrianisation can be cheaper than a shared space.

      Regarding the cruise ship terminal, I guess the council figures it can be profitable. Or will generate significant wider economic benefits for the whole city centre.

      1. Agreed. A cruise ship terminal brings tens of thousands of tourists directly into the central city every year, and they all spend. Not necessarily a bad use of money, if it’s supported with adequate justification.

        1. Say 20k tourists times $100 each equals $2million. Which is nothing in the total Auckland economy. But… If the city was going to spend a lot of ratepayer money in order to create profits for private Auckland businesses (such as bus tours, cafes, and souvenir shops) then there are almost certainly going to be more effective ways to do this. Free beds in backpacker hostels, perhaps. Or buying airline tickets to Auckland for rich people overseas.

          When I lived in northern Australia we used to get the US Navy amphibious groups stopping in on their way to and from the Gulf. We’d have thousands of sailors and marines in the city and they REALLY knew how to spend money. It wasn’t just bars either… they’d fill the cinemas and there would be queues for public phones in the CBD. We didn’t need a terminal tho, although I think the city did lay on free buses from the port to the CBD, the casino, and the largest suburban shopping mall.

  3. The really important thing is that change is not only possible but relatively easy. AK has already come a vast distance from the lifeless low point of flight to the ‘burbs; it is already so much better, so much more vital, and if we keep pushing it can only get better…. practical change to how the city is structured leads to real improvements in how it is experienced….

  4. A great experience would be to catch a (Electric) train in to town, atch the light rail up to the town hall and then wok your way down again hopping on offthe light rail as you desire even ending up at the Wynyard Quarter for a great meal to finish the days outing.

  5. I’m glad my ‘pet hate’ is going to be addressed – left turn slip lanes. Arguably one of the most anti-pedestrian instruments. Get rid of them all: Quay Street, Mayoral Drive and about four of them at both end of Tangihua Street

    No one in the City Center needs to turn a corner at full speed.

  6. i agree with John Dalley. The key to populising and regenerating the city centre is to minimise the number of cars that must travel into the city in the first instance. Using our waterways to our advantage by creating a network of ferries and smaller boat journeys from west, north and east auckland that benefit locals. Also speeding up the train system and adjusting bus routes to follow more closely with ‘typical’ paths of movement through the greater auckland area. Small and cheap modes of transport in the central city area could then take you where is need to go ie. a smart alternative to a tuktuk; or tramways and inner city rail loops as a more expensive/future option.

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