On Wednesday it was announced that consent had been granted to build  a $350 million, 209 metre skyscraper on the empty site at the corner of Victoria, Albert and Elliott streets. This site is location right up against Aotea Station on the City Rail Link, which will be dug out underneath Albert Street in the block between Wellesley and Victoria Streets.

The map below shows the site’s location in relation to Aotea Station:

aotea-station-entranceWe’ve said previously, including in our submission on the CRL’s designation application, that a pedestrian entrance to Aotea Station through this site is an absolute no-brainer – especially an entrance that lined up with where Darby Street meets Elliott Street so there’s a ‘line of sight’ level way of accessing Aotea Station from Queen Street. Whether it can go straight from Darby into the station or whether it needs to be on some sort of angle probably depends on whether the stupid slip lane on Albert Street is retained or not. But different options for some pedestrian connection through the site could work like what’s shown below:

aotea-linkThe obvious way to provide the link (whether it’s the blue option or the red one) is through some sort of retail arcade at ground level. This is a “win win” situation as it provides a high quality connection between Queen Street and Aotea Station that is flat (rather than people having to trek up Victoria Street) while also creating a huge amount of foot traffic for a successful retail area for the building owner.

A risk that may arise from any delay to the construction of CRL is the possibility that we may lose this opportunity. As Auckland Transport haven’t designated for access to the station across this site, we are reliant upon the goodwill of the developer to provide the connection (although obviously it’s to their advantage due to the foot traffic). But would they build a major retail arcade without the far end of it linking with Auckland’s busiest train station? There may also be helpful synergies of building both the tower and the station at the same time – in terms of underground services, traffic disruption as well as how the two might link together at the Albert Street boundary.

Compared to the dependency of Precinct’s development on the timing of  the CRL this is a fairly minor issue. However there do appear to be some important links between the new skyscraper and Aotea Station – particularly in relation to getting the pedestrian links right. Furthermore, I’m pretty sure the developer of the site wouldn’t exactly want a giant construction site right next to their recently opened hotel during the first few years after it’s completed.

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  1. Would this not also be the logical route from Queens Street to the SkyCity convention Centre? Through the new tower, into Aotea Station and then out the other side to Sky City?

    1. Significant grade differences – what helps on the east side hurts on the west side. Plus, the west side is built – any new access would need to thread through existing building basements. Certainly feasible, but less of a “no brainer”.

      1. Sky City were keen to have a link through to Aotea, so if that was the case and the Elliott provides a through site link then is perfectly feasible.

  2. The council could easily give assurance that any arcade would link up. And the building is not expected to be completed for 6 year. Despite the Govt assurances, I do expect construction to commence before then, though probably not as soon as Len wants.

  3. Some form of easy access to the Casino and the new Convention Center would seem to have obvious benefits for Sky City whatever the physical constraints. If they lent their support to calls for an earlier start date it would be harder for the current government to dismiss rising demand for work to get under way. After all, the main intercity bus terminus is already there.

    An intermodal transport hub based at a major entertainment centre. What’s not to like?

    Playing off powerful economic interests against government foot dragging may not be entirely above board but I’m frankly sick of listening to any more obstructionist wiffle-waffle from Key & Joyce.

    1. I’m not a fan of skycity and gambling for a start but gees it would be funnily ironic if John Key was forced into an earlier start date by the very types (corporates) who are supposed to be his buddies.

  4. It had to get council resource consent to go forward. Surely pedestrian access for Aotea Station was a condition of that consent, well you’d think it would be.

    1. You can’t condition something that may not be able to be fulfilled, and you can’t force somebody to provide a link to a train station (though you can hint heavily – and you can certainly make “if this happens, then why don’t you…” deals – or even make commercial agreements along that line).

  5. Albert Street looks narrow on the images. On Google Earth it is only 23 m from boundary to boundary, yet a hole needs to be dug that is wide enough for 2 tracks and a platform. The platform needs to be wide enough to facilitate pedestrian movement and waiting in the busiest station in the network. Ideally the platform would be as wide as at Melbourne Central, which is is about 16 m wide plus 4 m for each train track (I paced it out earlier in the week). Much of this width is used for escalators. So to replicate Melbourne Central’s platform width it needs a hole 24 m wide, plus the width of its concrete walls. Instead the space available is perhaps only 20m, of which 0.5 m each side would be required for walls, 4 m for trains leaving a platform of at best 11 m. Is this wide enough to allow for escalators, pedestrian circulation space and waiting space ? Or will a second level (a “pocket platform”) be required for pedestrian circulation, with escalators taking passengers down to platform level ?

    1. Would love to see detailed design, but just looking at that envelope I’d guess that egress could be focused at the north and south ends of the platforms in order to allow the full 11m width for platform circulation. So escalators parallel with the platform at each end leading up to transverse ‘mezzanines’ leading up and down Victoria St at the north (so joining the skyscraper site under Victoria St not Albert (blue arrow above). And beyond Wellesley St at the south.
      Does the platform look ong enough for that?

  6. Its funny how these companies aren’t massively lobbying the government for the CRL. Surely a stop right next to the sky tower would do wonders for their profit. I’m not sure how many 5 star guests are going to arrive by train to the hotel, but when the airport line is done I’m sure it would happen. And even central queen street businesses must appreciate what this could do for them, they must look jealously at britomart which has been transformed by the train station.

      1. No doubt some turn up hoping to win a car to drive home. Having access to a train might be a good plan be.

        Dont forget the conference center as well. The capacity is huge so direct access would be beneficial – the staff have to get to work somehow as we know there is no way they could afford to park there 😉

        1. You mean those 800 Full Time Equivalents (FTEs) that Key goes on and on about, that everyone else confirms will be at best 800 part time workers, or more like 500 full timers. And who will be all on minimum wage so won’t even be able to afford a car let alone the parking anywhere near the convention centre.

          And of course SkyCity would also love to force these minimum wage workers to make their way to the Aotea CRL station via the casinos, so that way they will have plenty of chances to “recover” the meagre wages they’ve been paid back via the pokie machines that will be all over the place.

          1. Hmm Melbourne Exhibition and convention centre is 30’000m2 and has this to say:

            “MCEC is owned by the Victorian State Government and managed by Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Trust.

            For the financial year ended 30 June 2013, the Trust employed seven Trustees, 152 full-time employees, seven part-time and 177 casual employees from over 35 different cultures.”

            So about 200 FTE.

            Meanwhile the Auckland one will be half the size yet have four times the staff. Are we really going to have eight times the staffing rate?!

          2. Hey don’t ask me, ask John Key/Joyce – they’re the ones spouting the 800 FTEs when its built mantra.

            I’ve been to huge conferences in venues like the huge one in Atlanta, GA (the Georgia World Conference Center, at 360,000 m2 – over 10 times the Melbounre one) that so large its has a large railway line down the middle of the venue which part of it goes under, that employed aout the numbers you quote during conferences that cater for 20+ thousand attendees.

            At mealtimes the number casuals working there become huge – but we’re talking at best them working 2 times over a day (usually the conferences I attend serve breakfast & lunch only), thats not a full 8 hour day for those workers. And I suspect most of them do 1 of these shifts at most and they (like here) would all be minimum wage.

            Not a recipe for economic salvation in my opinion.

    1. ‘they must look jealously at britomart which has been transformed by the train station’
      And that statement in itself is a worthy basis for some case study analysis that surely very clearly demonstrates the potential benefits of CRL.
      Even if the government stick their fingers in their ears, close their eyes and shout loudly – “lalalala not listening” – when the results are published, businesses and business lobby groups will surely be listening and observing the successes achieved within the Britomart precinct.

    2. Well you have Heart of the City, Auckland Chamber of Commerce, even the AA and frigging Federated Farmers, saying the CRL is a good idea and vital to the economic development of Auckland.

      However, when you have dug yourself into as deep a 1950s, neoliberal ideological hole as National has on transport, you just have to keep digging. Admitting you were wrong is not an option – apparently. From my personal knowledge of Brownlee, the words “I was wrong” are unlikely to pass his lips.

      1. They have already eaten some crow on this, by agreeing to fund it “some time in the future”, rather than calling it rubbish like they used to.

        If they eat some more by coming to the party, then they will do it in a way that is most likely to help them at election time – rather than in a way or time that makes Len Brown look good.

  7. What was the feasibility of building Aotea alone and the line linking to it, ahead of the full CRL? Some trains could continue terminating at Britomart. As long as they are sure of the route, there is nothing wrong with Auckland Council starting work on the station with its little bit of funding.

    1. Feasible but perhaps not worthwhile. I think the main issue is the Aotea station box is the access site for the TBMs, north of there is cut and cover. So that’s your launching site.

      If you wanted to build Aotea you are looking at a year or so with a huge hole instead of Albert St. To have it operational means coming back later to shut down for another year and digaOther equally huge hole next door, then fill it in. That could add hundreds of millions to the end cost.

      And to what gain? Sure it’s an extra stop in a very good place, but does nothing for train capacity, operations, through routing, making the route more direct etc.

      1. That sounds incorrect – there is about 100-150m space south of Aotea Station that wouldn’t be station but is shown as cut & cover. Unless the TBM is very long, it seems sufficient space.

        Especially if it is “only” the turnaround space, rather than the launch space?

        1. Yes clearly the Council owned southern end of the Aotea box is the works area and the point where the two tunnelling systems meet. Ideally the box for most of the station and especially the northern end adjacent to the skyscraper site could be formed in advance of the TBM works and station being commissioned. There is even a convenient dip in Albert St as it turns into Mayoral Drive that could be covered with a temporary Bailey Bridge for as long as necessary. Also Mayoral Drive is over wide at this point, being a motordom-era road and not a city street which offers even more space.

  8. I find it interesting that the first picture above showing the profile view of the new tower somehow doesn’t have the sky tower in it, seeing as its practically breathing down its neck.

    1. The view in the picture is looking south from Victoria St, with Albert St on the right. The Skytower is a block off the right hand edge of the picture.

  9. Can someone confirm with Auckland Council that the highrise consent protects access to the station. Job-endingly crazy otherwise.

    1. not sure if there is a consent condition but there certainly is access designed as part of the main retail floor that fronts to Elliott St.

    2. Worse than that – Auckland Transport don’t actually want such a connection. A lot of people suggested such a link in the Notice of Requirement hearings, and AT responded (p24):

      Access directly from the station platforms to Queen Street or Elliott Street would require the construction of escalators down from the platforms, a passageway under the track formation and the construction of a passenger tunnel 140m and 70m in length respectively along with ticketing and gating facilities somewhere on the route.

      The passenger experience within such a long underground passageway could be unacceptable and the preference for pedestrians to stay at street level is generally accepted as the appropriate choice for such movements where possible. The station entrances in the concept design have been located in the optimum location to respond to the physical constraints of the station platform location and the passenger demand from within the precinct that the station serves to the north, south east and west.

      Well, at least

      This concept design does not preclude a future entrance from being attached to the station from within the [Elliott Tower site] at some time in the future.

      But it’s implied that any such entrance would be at about the height of Albert Street – you’d still have to do all the same up and down as from the Victoria Street entrance.

      1. That is ridiculous! All these “experts” have obviously never been to Hong Kong, Singapore, London, Sydney etc.
        Underground access tunnels are great! They save a lot of time, are protected from the elements and also provide a revenue opportunity when done properly with shops etc. I have heard a rumour that the ASB tower had an area in it’s basement set aside for future access to CRL when it was built?

  10. “We’ve said previously, including in our submission on the CRL’s designation application, that a pedestrian entrance to Aotea Station through this site is an absolute no-brainer ”

    Maybe I’m completely misunderstanding what you’re talking about… but why is this essential? The railway station will have doors opening to the street. The new tower will have doors opening to the street. So will Sky City, for that matter. And once you’re on the street you can enjoy a flexible pedestrian network that takes you all over the CBD. So why do we have to link anything together directly? Doesn’t that just keep people off the street so they’re not really part of the city?

    1. because will be a more direct link to Queen Street. If people can cut diagonally across this site, and straight to Darby St will be a really handy connection. Will prevent people having to walk up a hill, then down stairs, and instead easily access the station at the Queen St level.

      1. What stairs? From street level down in to the station? Why wouldn’t the station have escalators like pretty much every other station in the western world?

        This proposal sounds a bit like Melbourne Central, where there is a giant multi-block shopping mall built over a railway station. People can walk quite a distance there without having to go outside and engage with the city. It’s a pretty dreary experience in my opinion. Contrast that with London where mega-stations like Canary Wharf are physically separated from the towers nearby, forcing workers to walk from station to office rather than staying within a station-tower bubble. Off hand I can’t think of any London underground station where you walk from station to commercial premises without engaging with the city outside.

  11. Liverpool Street Station and Bank both have exits that take you directly from trains to offices without engaging with the city outside. As a rule though you are right Obi – probably because of the age of the system. Will be interesting to see how cross rail looks when it is finally finished.

  12. Just a question about the Aotea station – the map shows the cut extending along Victoria Street either side of the main box; presumably this is for access to the station but would this also allow for a second deeper line along this axis to be added in the future to allow for a North Shore link if that ever happens?

    1. To refine my question; has there been any planning at this stage for this additional line so that surrounding developments such as this one do not impede its development?

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