Out of all the exciting plans and strategies for Auckland’s future that we’ve heard about over the past few days, perhaps the one proposal that gets me most excited is the prospect that the horrific Lower Hobson Street viaduct might be demolished. You know the one: We have done some pretty horrible things to our city over the years (Mayoral Drive, Nelson Street, Victoria Park flyover etc.) but I struggle to think of a more horrendous piece of infrastructure than this viaduct: particularly because of its prime waterfront location and the fact that it’s right next to the historic Tepid Baths building. Along with the “traffic wall” of Fanshawe and Sturdee streets and the ‘concrete jungle’ of the downtown carpark, this viaduct absolutely ruins this important corner of Auckland’s city centre.

Which is why I’m so excited to read in today’s NZ Herald that one of the first key projects for the Council over the next three years is likely to be the removal of this hideous thing:

The lower Hobson St flyover should be removed to create a plaza near the Tepid Baths and keep motorists away from the waterfront, say city planners.

The draft city centre and waterfront masterplans both advocate demolishing the concrete flyover, which takes motorists from Quay St on the waterfront on to Hobson St or Fanshawe St.

Ironically enough the viaduct is actually a fairly recent addition to our streetscape, being built in the late 1980s or early 1990s from memory. At the time it might have been a key route for port traffic heading to the Northern Motorway, but the spaghetti junction upgrades of a few years ago mean that it’s now vastly oversize and does little more than encourage traffic onto Quay Street.

Exciting renovation/redevelopment plans also look in store for the downtown carpark:

The masterplans also call for the council-owned Downtown carpark, with 1900 spaces, to become a commercial office tower with shops, cafes and restaurants at street level and some carparking.

Currently, the flyover and carpark building blight the area, obscure views to the city from the waterfront and are a barrier to pedestrians, say the planning documents.

It has always seemed a bit strange to me to have such a prime piece of waterfront real estate wasted on being a carpark (although this seems to be a common theme in Auckland). Something like the picture below seems a vastly improved urban environment for this area: I just really hope this becomes a reality.

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    1. Yes there’s an irony- WGTN should campaign that they’ll just been demolishing it in a few years…

      Ours is so well built too, almost all of the AK motorway system has been built twice over in my lifetime….

  1. It will. I think removing the carpark will happen soon enough too – perhaps when we build the rail link?

    Glad to see there’s serious discussion on removing this. The current council is (so far) the best thing to happen to Auckland in decades!

    1. Which raises the question: how many of these plans will be able to be binned instantly if Dick Quax and his backwoods redneck crew win the mayoralty and/or a council majority in 2013? The current admin might be moving as quickly as possible to set things in motion that the bad guys can’t destroy (like Christine Fletcher and Britomart).

      1. You are right Doloras, many of these plans could get stopped dead by a change in mayoralty. But at the moment, I am hopeful that Len Brown won’t be a one-term mayor. The fact that by the time he’s up for re-election, National is likely to have lost some popularity, that can’t but help his cause.

        1. Yes, that longed for dream land… or rather that one in which some waking up happens.

          Remember poor Hubbard was well screwed by an obstructive council…. However I feel that this Council has legs, it is getting some pretty good hits in, and even with, or perhaps especially with, an oppositional Gov? Kind of like Ak wants some checks and balances, because of our uni-cameral hse in WGTN?

        2. Our current local gov does seem to have both a mandate and a will. As they should – their greatest chance of getting kicked out is for being seen the same way Hubbard was at the end. Sadly, any big project tends to contain a lot of political risks especially shortly before and during construction – people just tend to see the cost, and the noise, and the construction disruption, and forget to think of the time after.

          Kind how the Queen Street upgrade complaints being constantly reported in the Herald / the associated cost blow-outs were a millstone around Hubbard’s neck that he really didn’t need during the election campaign.

  2. Sweet!!
    Finally Auckland Councillors talking sense and being bold.The contrast with ol Banskie and his lot is really something.

  3. With a two way’d Nelson and Hobson and a boulevard-ised Quay the viaduct becomes nearly usless. I wonder if there is the potential to two way customs st as a direct continuation of Fanshawe for car traffic, so that studded can be used for buses and local traffic only, plus the aforementioned tepid baths plaza.

  4. Looks great to me, I note they mention this is in their 10 year plan not the next 3 as you state admin. Would love to see it go in the next 3 years though to be honest. I’m loving all the small low-hanging fruit projects, where relatively small amounts of money can make major changes to downtown Auckland.

  5. Can I please have one of the knobbly columns? i think they are cute. maybe we could keep them there as a historical trace….

  6. I seem to recall that the dreaded ramp replaced one of the more charming features of Auckland roads: a cobbled slip road connecting Fanshawe Street to Customs Street West. I think it was demolished in the late 1960s although there may be pentimenti of its existence in the surviving balustraded wall. As a kid I loved it both for the sound and for the vibration!

      1. Unfortunately, in the artists concept picture, there is a dirty great 4-story building sitting on stilts above it. So we get rid of a low concrete bridge and add a tall building. That should really open up the views – NOT!

  7. Thanks Max. Sadly it’s inaccessible so I can’t hire a taxi to relieve one of my more pleasurable childhood experiences of Auckland roads. Mind you, if I had my way, we’d re-cobble all CBD roads; aside from anything else, cobbles are extraordinarily effective in slowing down traffic speeds; for proof, just look at Centro Storico in Rome!

    1. Hi Christopher, not sure what you mean with “inaccessible”? It has signalised pedestrian crossings to it at both ends (intersection Wolfe Street / Lower Hobson Street) & (Customs Street West, Sturdee Street).

      If you mean “inaccessible by wheelchair” (sorry if I get that wrong, I am just trying to puzzle out what you mean, re your comments on taxis and inaccessibility), then it gets slightly harder, as the top of the cobbled street is only accessible by a short metal stair set. But the bottom is open, and pedestrianised, and linked to those signalised crossings.

      If you want, just go there, and dream of it being much nicer again in a few years!

      (Oh, and I don’t think they will actually build a building on stilts over the road – nearby property owners would never allow it. Just some architect with little local knowledge (or with some fancy for stilts buildings!) doodling a concept sketch. Lets not get all fussy about that).

  8. I would rather than the Hobson Street fly over than the appalling architecture shown in that picture. Why do they insist on ugly, souless buildings? The architecture being foisted on Auckland by “architects” is a bloody disgrace. Wasn’t modernism rejected in the 1960s!

  9. i’m pretty sure that flyover dates back to at least the early-80s, possibly even late-70s. it’s bad, but the demolition of Cook St. markets and the building of Mayoral drive rates as a much greater crime in my book…

  10. Change the carpark to retail? How exactly does that improve the view, change how people see Auckland etc? Retail is retail and Auckland has plenty. The downtown parking building is very handy when visiting the downtown area outside of working hours.

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