In the last decade we have seen some massive improvements to our PT system, especially on the rail network with things like the duplication of the western line. Thankfully we have also seen a shift in thinking and it has been realised that we need more than just functional improvements and that well designed infrastructure is also important in attracting people to use PT. Most stations have now been upgraded nicely and common design (although I’m sure we would all like to see more shelter) and at a few locations we have gone further and created some really impressive stations. Britomart was the first but we can now add New Lynn and Newmarket to that list.

Newmarket Station ©Patrick Reynolds 2010

When it comes to Newmarket station though, one sore point since it opened has been station square which has a number of issues, one of which is below.

Station Square exit to Broadway

A report to the Waitamata local board  (in the same agenda as the Fort St report) looks at what the issues are and what some solutions are to fix them up. Here is what some of the report had to say:

Newmarket Station Square was purchased to provide a space that could function as a mixture of:

  • a transition and waiting space for rail passengers;
  • a civic square for community activities and events;
  • a public open space area for respite from the busyness of the commercial streets;
  • a pleasant outlook and “backyard” for local high rise residents, while retaining its public use, look and feel.

However, Station Square has faced challenges in becoming what was envisaged following its opening early in 2010 and has a number of fundamental design issues. The space is isolated from surrounding streets with little visible reference to the adjacent shopping centre. There exists a conflict of public/private interests created by private development forming the built edge to Station Square.  The design is barren, uninviting and uninteresting, and there are severe restrictions on the amount and positioning of any fixed elements as Station Square sits over a car park roof.

Newmarket is a very busy station with thousands of students and commuters waiting in and walking through Station Square at certain times during the working week. Station Square’s visitors are mainly transient, making their way to or from a train or apartment. The most visible exception to this is the use of Station Square by young people on weekday afternoons as a gathering space, while they wait for trains after school finishes.

and

Given its location behind Broadway and fronting the Newmarket rail station, Station Square is a key open space for Newmarket. As a business centre, Newmarket continues to grow rapidly, outstripping other retail centres and operating as a strong retail and shopping magnet. The population of Newmarket town centre is growing rapidly, thanks to the construction of new apartment buildings, of which the L&Y development adjoining Station Square is one example.

This significant growth in population will continue to place pressure on the relatively small amount of open space available within walking distance of the Newmarket town centre. Major projected business growth in Newmarket will continue to attract more shoppers and workers into the town centre, who want open spaces and parks for lunch and relaxation, putting even more pressure on the available open space.

Modelling suggests that 3000 commuters will alight at Newmarket during the morning peak by 2016, with 800 of these exiting the station at one time in the busiest 10-minute period. It is estimated that 50-80% of commuters exiting the rail station will do so via the link out to Broadway. The majority of buses travel along Broadway and the town centre is most easily accessed by this link, hence most transfers are and will continue to be via the Broadway walkway.

And here are some of the recommendations to improve the square, the most costly of which is the first one but it is perhaps the most important (I’m not going to put the all of the recommendations up simply due to the size of some of them.

 1. Visibility and legibility

1.1. Improve access and signage

There are two designated pedestrian links giving access to Station Square in addition to the main concourse into the upper level of the railway station, which provides a direct and secure covered access from Remuera Road into the station. These are illegible entries with very poor amenity on both the Remuera Road and Broadway entry points.  Visitors from Broadway will walk past the backs of buildings, service alleyways razor wire and poorly lit dog-legs before arriving at Station Square.

However, this walkway will be in use until the widening and development of the access. Auckland Council approved funding by committee of $700,000 in 2011 towards the necessary relocation of the existing toilets and to redevelop shops 29 and 30, which are retained in council ownership. Negotiations have been completed with the owner of the property on Broadway but still awaiting legal confirmation.

Meanwhile, better signage is needed to signal the access ways to Station Square and then on to the station.  The Newmarket Business Association has some suggestions for this. The upgrade of lighting along the walkways is also recommended.

Options for improvement:

  • Develop the access way to Station Square from Broadway as soon as the deal is completed between Council and the owner.
  • Improve entry signage to Station Square.  Suggestions have been made to the Local Board by the Newmarket Business Association to install signage.
  • Upgrade lighting along access ways including catenary lighting.

1.2. Improve sightlines and surveillance

There are no clear lines of sight between Station Square and outside streets as all accesses are dog-legged, contributing to the impression of isolation.

The balconies of the surrounding apartments that overlook Station Square on three sides, together with the few tenanted shops on the ground floor, provide intermittent passive surveillance. However, the solid concrete canopy over the shops denies any real connection between the residents and people in Station Square.

The railway station has security cameras that are monitored at Britomart Transport Centre by Auckland Transport. The CCTV coverage only includes a small area outside the station at the bottom of the steps into the square. There are no security cameras in the general square vicinity.  The few bench seats in the corner are insufficient to provide ongoing natural surveillance and encourage the necessary activity to relieve the space of its barren emptiness.

Suggestions for improvements

  • Design of the new Broadway exit creates a direct line of sight into Station Square from Broadway
  • Ambassadors for Station Square and to develop and support positive relationships between retailers, residents and visitors, paid for by Council.
  • CCTV installed to cover the Remuera Road and Broadway exits and the open area of Station Square

2. Activate the square

2.1. Work with local business association to bring in appropriate retail activities

Suggestions for improvement:

  • Work with the Newmarket Business Association to encourage retail development that will provide activity and colour on the reserve edge and enliven the space.
  • Work with businesses to design a market that works within the weight limits

2.2. Activation

Suggestions for improvement:

  • Make Station Square into an arts area
  • Programme activities in Station Square that target youth
  • Bring in more soft landscaping as part of Station Square

3. Amenity and design improvements

Green Station Square and create seating spaces

There is a seating area in the southwestern corner close to the shops but there is no other amenity to encourage apartment residents or the public to use Station Square for recreation.

Station Square is a designated open space and the potential exists for developing an ‘oasis’ in the town centre for the recreation and relaxation of visitors and workers. Station Square sits over an underground carpark, leading to severe restrictions on the amount and positioning of any fixed elements, and any greening of the space would require planter boxes.

Any redevelopment of Station Square must investigate options to solve the ‘fundamental’ problems above and in the safety assessment, rather than providing simply a ‘paint and paper’ of the existing space.  While the options outlined in this report will provide some quick, relatively inexpensive ‘fixes’ to the square’s design itself, they will not in themselves solve the social problems currently plaguing the space.  It must also be noted that a structural engineer needs to be engaged prior to any development of these solutions, as the location and strength of structural beams and pillars will dictate the design above, and these were not known at the time of drafting the concept.

Suggestions for improvements:

  • Pursuing initiatives for greening the space and adjacent buildings
  • Install a high quality, covered hardwood seating area in the middle part of Station Square
  • Position steel/timber planters, planted with 400L deciduous trees and low underplanting, with seats on two sides of selected planters
  • Consider installing interactive/brightly coloured sculpture

Getting this square and the surrounding commercial businesses working is really important and hope that the council are able to quickly get any outstanding issues resolved because at the moment the place is a bit like a school report card, has lots of potential but doesn’t deliver.

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38 comments

  1. If there is one thing I like giving The Mayor of Newmarket grief about – Newmarket Square and Station would be the prime example.

    The ultimate solution would be to pull down those tacky apartments that block the station to Broadway – however I do not feel like committing suicide on multiple fronts so won’t go further there.

    Trees, water-feature, signage and an entrance way that is not so horridly expose leading back to Broadway. Not sure whether they should play classical music like they do at the Westpac Building end of Britomart to also act as a calm and deter method (against – well you figure it out).

    A Queen Street kind of Arcade idea came to mind for connecting Broadway to the Station and The Square however that might need quite a bit of potential redevelopment on the ground floor spaces. Opportunity missed?

  2. There is no transition point for buses either and in my opinion, trying to work out which bus to use once you find the stop is baffling to me.

  3. There is some low-hanging fruit here and its a mistake which is all too often made in CBD upgrades – a lack of trees, greenery and seating.

    Look at the picture of the open square area at (presumably) dusk – just what exactly do we expect people to do on what is pretty much just a concrete slab? Play hacky-sack is about all I can come up with.

    The article says it all – the place gets close to 3000 people pass through it at morning peak (7-9am?) – that’s pedestrian numbers alot of other places would kill for. So access is a side issue.

    Now how to get them to linger before catching their train? Put in some seating, make the area pleasant with grass, trees and cover from the elements (good and bad). Surely some mobile coffee/food carts could rent some space to provide F&B. Put up a big screen and play movies, the news, concerts.

    Its not that hard, is it?

  4. Having just walked through that very square before lunch time today (catching a train from a customer near Britomart to Newmarket), I have no interest in hanging around that square.

    As for KLK’s ideas, I think the existing residents around the square in those appartments might have a thing or two to say about any noise/light generating activities after dark

    – and theres the problem, as identified before, this square is trying to be a private courtyard to those apartment dwellers and a public square gallery for everyone else. Somethings gotta give.

    As an aside, the new EMU drivers cab mock up is sitting in the Newmarket station concourse right now if anyone wants to take a look at that (you can sit in the drivers seat and get an idea of the new EMU cab design. And while you’re there check out the Newmarket square as you might have some suggestions.

    First thing I noticed about the EMU drivers cab mock up – an inset coffee cup holder for the driver to put their beverage in so it won’t spill. Very important for those long train journeys.

    1. “I think the existing residents around the square in those appartments might have a thing or two to say about any noise/light generating activities after dark”

      Well, fair enough. But that leaves (say) 8am to (say) 7pm when we could have a big screen TV on at an aceptable level for those sitting at some central seating/grassed area to hear. It doesn’t need to be terribly loud to suit that purpose. After 7pm it can be on mute (maybe play silent films? ha) – it would still offer more than anything there now.

      I agree with Nick’s comments on the canopy idea and yes, you would think a coffee/sandwich/pie/kebab cart with some tables, umbrellas and chair would be obvious, wouldn’t it?

      Its like using bollards/cones to block off traffic in Queen/High St every now and again – so simple and effective its silly but instead the council focus on bigger and more expensive ideas which ultimately do the same job.

      Rant over.

  5. I think the square needs a sort of pergola or canopy extension all the way around to give it a bit more enclosure and separate the public square from the private residences above.

    Other than that the suggestions of planting, water features etc are all good. A coffee cart out in the middle with a couple of tables with umbrellas would be a good start.

  6. Some good points in the report. One other thing I find frankly dangerous in the area is the access to the carpark. Evidently cars have right of way over pedestrians at the entrance, even though it would appear to just be a footpath. The entrance is signalised for pedestrians, but there are no obvious visual cues, until you almost get hit by a car.

    1. I’ve walked past there a few times and thought it was bizzare. I think it stems from it’s location opposite Nuffield St. How come pedestrians get such a raw deal? As an aside, I think Nuffield St should be a shared space.

      1. Indeed it clearly should [Nufield; Shared], and the Link route should be straightened out to avoid it. Station Square is such a clear example of failure by the officers at the council. The developer obviously turned up with a design by quantity surveyor and it should have been sent right back with instructions to provide decent shop sizes and especially stud heights, proper connection with the streets, and at least one massive deciduous tree to bring life to what could be a cool little city square. Also there is far too much carparking on this site and it has a terrible entry point. It is also needless mean in detail and planning and, as a consequence, clearly underperforming; vacant tenancies.

        It is sadly difficult to expect developers to care about the public amenity of what they are building, but that is what the resource consent process is supposed to address. We have been so let down by council officers in this regard with city buildings, it seems they are too busy fussing about villa alterations to pay much attention to our cityscapes.

        1. Well perhaps the developer should care more about about the public amenity, given that it appears to be having such a huge impact on their ability to let the retail units.

        2. It feels like it was designed as a carpark, first and foremost, with a rail station and some assorted appartments and shops scattered around it.

        3. Nick: yes, but don’t hold your breath.

          Bryce; exactly, we are forced to adapt to a world made for the car, not the other way round. This is wrong and largely unseen, and that is basically the entire point of this blog.

  7. The obvious answer is to bulldoze a building opening the square up to the street.
    They look like low-rise buildings on Google Streetview so should be possible.
    Costs could be offset by selling the air-rights above for offices maybe.

  8. It’s not a great space in the rain either – the direct line from the horrible Broadway entrance to the station is very exposed.

  9. I’d say coffee cart and flowers cart. Gives nice colours and perfumes for free. They did it in Melbourne to give some life to the then newly closed off Swanston St. They council gave the license to the florists only if they were staying open until 10pm, bringing free (for the council) colour and vibrancy to the street.

  10. I wonder about the relevance of the following statement: “the majority of buses travel along Broadway.” Well, yes they do but the closest stops on Broadway are not located where you would walk via the Broadway pedestrian connection.

    If you’re coming from the north then you would have to get off on Broadway before the intersection with Khyber Pass. I suspect many people will travel past the station to the stops opposite 277 and then walk back to access the station via Remuera Road. And even if people did get off at the stop to the north, there may in the future be a northern pedestrian access over the rail line that allows them to access the station by avoiding the square altogether. So the fact the buses travel on Broadway is irrelevant – it’s where the stops are that counts.

    All this really tells me is that the report is a little lax in understanding the routes by which people will walk when looking to make bus/rail connections. The Broadway connection is not really relevant to these people, from what I can tell. Unless you shifted the 277 bus stops north that is … how about it?

  11. Well we could always do what the French did with the less appealing part of the Palais Royale, the cour d’honneur, when they commissioned Daniel Buren to do his column installation: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Les_Deux_Plateaux. It works: wandering through there a couple of weeks back I was struck by how occupied the space was, how much it appealed to the widest possible demographic (except me: I much prefer the gardens and the colonnades). Art works.

  12. I just hope they learn from these mistakes with any developments at the Mt Albert station that are planned. Hopefully this station will be an example of how things should be done. People need visually appealing places not just practicality. Points of interest, a destination in itself.

    Lack of greenery in Newmarket is an issue for sure. Same thing happened for some strange reason to the shared space on Lorne St by the library. Such a dull space.

  13. Newmarket is struggling commercially especially that side of Broadway.

    The shops would be tenanted if the economic climate was what they were designed for. They are meant to be boutiques. And that would organically fix a lot of the issues.

    There already is a colonnade, not sure more canopies would really help.

    Note, large living tree and water features are likely impossible, as the original quotes say, due to the fact this is built on a low strength roof. That’s why the stupid glass and steel “trees” are there.

    Destroying the ex-brothel would clearly help to make it all visible.

    1. Charles those shops will be hard to tenant in any climate, they are so poorly designed and the proportions of that miserable overhang make it a very very long way from anyone’s idea of a ‘colonnade’.

      Trees are only impossible if you assume that the car spaces below have to all be retained.

      And Richard the best hope for Mt Albert is really in its delay…. the longer it takes to get round to it the better it is likely to be. Each improvement elsewhere brings more confidence to these upgrades and Mt Albert could be fantastic. Should be fantastic, a real mixed use development. Frustrating I know for the locals, but probably better on balance to wait a little longer and get something great.

  14. Carts! I think we need to inject a bit of small scale, street level shopping here. Let people set up stalls ad whatever for as low a price as possible.

    And yes, artwork would set the place of. Come to think of it, make it an art quarter where street merchants sell their art from carts…

  15. From our Auckland LTP submission-

    “Newmarket Station Square is a perfect example of oxymoronic best practice.

    However good it looked on paper, it is a nightmare in reality- unappealing, hard to access, a mostly sunless plaza of concrete and steel “trees” squeezed by over-height buildings- no wonder only 10% of the shops are tenanted.
    Nevertheless it won an Architecture Award in 2010 and Best Building (Urban Design) in 2011.

    If this building is considered “best practice urban design” the question must be asked- why are we spending millions of dollars to provide access to Broadway and beautify it in another attempt to attract patrons and businesses?”

    Having more info now, I think the Bryce is right- the whole thing is merely a lid to a carpark building. With the limitations it has, most of the easy fixes are impossible/ tricky at best, this colossal failure will need some very imaginative minds at work to turn it into something anyone would choose to spend time in.

    Failing that- it would make an ideal prison…

  16. I live in the apartments next to the train station. They are not dog boxes, they are actually very well designed inside, and all the residents are praying for the electric trains to come sooner! The noise of the diesel trains is certainly a drawback.

    The UoA planning school criticizes this square a lot for having badly designed access points. If you’re entering the station from the main Remuera Road entrance, it’s all fine. Coming from Broadway like most, it’s shocking. The problem is all the backs of shops and buildings, which need to be fenced off completely to stop being such an eyesore. Perhaps knocking down one of the shops on the side to widen the alleyway will create clear lines. Not to mention better signage from Broadway, you’d almost miss the train if you didn’t know where it was.

    The next part is the usage of the square. Trees would help, especially palm trees. At the moment, most residents use it as a place to smoke and buy things from the 3 dairies. Kids from the nearby schools use it as a place to smoke and hang out, these days there is a dedicated security officer supervising them, especially with the litter they create. The shops are vacant because the traffic in there is too low, being a dogleg off Broadway and Remmers Road, and cafés would exist if the square weren’t such a transient place, more seating to break up the square would help.

  17. Its the wide canopies and pillars which ruin the space. Extend the retail floor space out and let shops open out onto the square. Good idea or not?

  18. Lipstick on a Pig. Worrying that an important piece of public space, architecture and transport infrastructure can be so bad when so much effort apparently went into it. It does need alot more than a wooden shelter, fizzy lighting and some token public art to fix the basics here.

    More importantly – will subsequent work in similar situations achieve better?

  19. Has anyone seen the interesting art pop up stores? Two shops, some very interesting art for sale, and a really nice place to visit. Hopefully the shops will continue and more art projects in the square will follow.

  20. I’ve been past here again recently but had forgotten about this post (Thanks Mr Wood). Really, the square should have been right off Remuera Road, as an extension (visually) off Nuffield St, with the shops, apartments and carpark behind. Too late to go back and redo it now.

  21. There was a item in a council agenda recently about purchase of land for access in Newmarket. Didn’t have more detail than that as was in confidential agenda, but may well have been for the station. Lets hope so.

    1. Luke- I think it’s for a better access way from B Way.

      Last time i was round the Nuffield St nightmare you still couldn’t really tell there was a Station there. The signage was minimal to non existent

      1. Wonder if anything has changed in four years? Bet ya-

        1- the Broadway entrance still looks like dogshit.
        2- There’s nowhere to pick up or drop people off outside
        3- Station Square is 85% empty shops

        Can anyone who ever goes to Newmarket confirm?

        1. Time to push this issue forwards perhaps? Went past it the last time I visited Auckland and it was tacky as hell.

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