The Khartoum place upgrade is well under way and shaping up to be an even greater set of urban spaces for our rapidly developing city.

First up, down on the Lorne St side we can see the new owner of the old new gallery building  has changed its format in response to the opening of the new old gallery (ahem).  They’ve just finished a fit out that has reconfigured the ground level into a series of retail outlets. The best bit is the new cafe opening out onto the square, complete with tables already in use. It is part of the Gloria Jeans chain, arguably the McDonalds of coffee shops, but to their credit they have put a lot of effort into a slick fit out that is more artsy hipster than suburban strip mall. This really livens things up compared to the old inactive frontage. There are also new shop fronts right along the Lorne St and Wellesley St frontages which is already activating the block with commerce and activity.


I can only assume that the councils investment in the upper Lorne St streetscapes, the art gallery and now Khartoum place is what spurred the property owner into investing in their building stock. Good job council, investment in quality urban spaces is clearly paying economic dividends already.

Now on to Upper Khartoum place itself. We can see the new stairs linking the upper and lower levels of the square are built and already in use. I think this is a great design, it opens up the square somewhat and provides a critical sightline to new gallery extension. But thankfully it doesn’t detract from the sense of enclosure one feels in the shady “outdoor room” of the lower square.

Earlier plans nuked the whole suffragettes memorial and fountain stairs, to be replaced with a single broad and long staircase melding the two halves of the square. Personally I’m glad that plan got shelved in favour of the less drastic change and keeping the square in two distinct halves.



While the new staircase is in there is a lot more to do reconfiguring and repaving the upper part of the square. Council indicates the works should be completed by August, and will look like this when done.

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  1. I love this part of town, however I’ve always felt that Khartoum Plc has always been let down by the homeless people who hang out there. I understand that the homeless have just as much right to be there as I, however we also need to ensure that people feel safe and welcome in public.

    Hopefully the area will start to become more popular.

    As for GJs… Well, at least they _do_ make proper coffee 😉

  2. Looking great and much more user friendly. As for the homeless, they are just that and have no where else to go. Maybe Mayor Len’s personal gymnasium space in the town hall could be put to a more productive use.

  3. Now they just need a pedestrian crossing at the top so getting across to the art gallery is less of a game of Russian Roulette.

  4. It’s always a cafe and there’s another cafe on the other side too. I find it a little strange that although this area of town is meant to be the arts and culture precinct that there are so few options to grab a drink. As far as I can make out the only bars not inside venues between Victoria Street and Mayoral Drive are, Brooklyn, the Derby, and Stark’s. Most of the other bars around this area seem to struggle. Considering the large numbers of people going to the area for entertainment purposes it seems very odd.

      1. Not surprising really. It had a bit of class when it opened but then swiftly started doing down hill. We went there once for an event and at least a dozen flies were buzzing around the room we were in.

        1. ah ah used to go there for after job drinks and first thing we were turning off the TV showing 80’s music videos and cricket. You shouldn’t run a bar if you think showing 80’s music video and cricket is a good idea.

          1. I went in there a couple of years ago and they had Juice 2 playing on the TV. Never a good sign. I hope something better opens up there. It’s a great venue and with a lack of competition and proximity to AUT it could clean up.

          2. They had their radio playing constantly, including the ever-so annoying radio ads. Completely did in the atmosphere if there was any to begin with. Excellent location though, especially with the possibility of an outdoor area on Lorne St, don’t remember seeing them make much use of it?

          3. I don’t think they opened the Lorne Street bar up much, usually it was just used for events. The location is amazing. I’d angle to become AUT’s unofficial staff bar.

  5. Looks like a really good sympathetic upgrade and glad to see a middle ground was found to save the memorial from the art gallery Odessa Steps brigade.

    I don’t think there’ll be a problem with the level of use certainly in the lower half – most times I’ve gone there it’s been well populated with lots of lunching office people (daytime) and students/young people (afternoons and evenings). They gather on the other side of the ped crossing from Khartoum too to hang out and buy coffee & Korean pancakes. If Council got its fertilizer aggregated and finally got that road into shared-space form it would be *fantastic*.

    1. The Council was caught between a rock and a hard place. The tiles celebrate an important issue but they really are crap with low artistic values.

      1. There are a few carpark entrances and the like too, Just needs to be a proper shared space, probably with left-in-left-out only access to prevent rat running.

        Would be good to make Kitchener a two way street, one lane each way instead of two northbound. That would need a proper ped crossing at the gallery however.

        The old couplet of Kitchener northbound and Lorne southbound needs to go, as does the high street exit from the Victoria St carpark that feeds all the motorway-bound traffic up Lorne to Wellesley St. That’s all 1970s thinking, time for a rejig.

    1. I have sometimes seen tables out but not many. Tony’s is pretty old school I can’t imagine them ever changing their business practises.

          1. Really, WTF? So they could stick a couple of shabby cabbage trees in it’s place?

            There is something a little weird about street trees in this city, they seem to chop them out and avoid any species that might thrive and provide shade and greeness in the summer.

          2. My thoughts exactly, and the Council appears to have been quite secretive in their actions as the renders they released show it still being there. Yet it was one of the first things to be chopped.
            Mature trees in Auckland are rapidly been cut down ever since any blanket tree protection was banned by National.

          3. Despite evidence that deciduous trees make for better streets the Council has bought into the whole native nazis thing. Natives look fantastic in groups and in natural forest but streets are enhanced by trees that change with the seasons. You couldn’t invent a machine that provides shade in summer, light in winter and colour in autumn, at least if you did it would look as good as a tree.

          4. My bet is they cut it down after pressure from the same people who wanted the grand staircase. They probably think it blocks the view to the Art Gallery.

          5. The problem with ” trees that change with the seasons” is that they look depressingly dead in winter. And clog the storm water drains and make footpaths slippery in autumn (amongst the many excuses given by councils for cutting down street trees). But the most likely reason for cutting down this particular tree is that, judging from it’s canopy shape on streetview, it’s root zone would have been severely compromised by the excavations required for the “transformation” of Khartoum Pl. Since this street is shaded by high/medium rise buildings so that the shade in summer/light in winter argument is largely superfluous, perhaps they will replace it with a feature planting of natives, eg hebes or alpine totara with a Kahikatea, Rimu, Rata or Kauri feature tree.

          6. Kevyn deciduous trees do not ‘look dead in winter’ but rather allow the sun through just when we need it. People can always come up with crap reasons for killing trees [leaves- drains!] but only when they don’t value them.

            I love native trees, have planted literally thousands of them, but don’t find them always the best urban trees. That oak was magnificent and it is hard to see how it was in the way of anything.

          7. Walked past here tonight, and noticed once again how Upper Khartoum looks depressingly dull and exposed now that that tree is gone.

          8. Yeah there’s been an outbreak of ‘botanical correctness’ that has led to some inappropriate use of native trees as well as with some truly wonderful new plantings.

            Sometimes, and often in really urban situations, deciduous is best.

          9. Kevyn I am 100% with Patrick. Trees dont look dead in the winter they let light through when we value it most. I have a gleditsia that is all angular sticks in the winter and when the sun hits it after rain, the drops all go like prisms. There are plenty of sources on great streets that suggest deciduous trees are the way to go as it allows the streetscape to change. We used to have them (I think it was flowering cherries so we got blosom in spring) on Queen St until the last refurbishment went to bleak stone and nikaus . Now it is just depressing.

          10. Patrick, it is in inescapable fact of plant physiology that a dormant deciduous tree looks dead. That adds to the bleakness of grey winters day when streets or other public spaces are totally dominated by exotics. and is, in my opinion, one of the strongest reasons for mixing exotics and natives in the streetscape. Although I agree with you that when you have an isolated wonderful specimen such as that Oak there is no reason other than disease that can justify removing it. The only logical reason for killing this one with a chainsaw was because they going to kill it with root damage when they remodelled the built environment anyway so better to be proactive and avoid being accused of killing the tree with council incompetence.

            Leaves blocking drains is a very expensive problem for councils, but only because they stormwater systems adopted when streets were first tarsealed is a crap design. Now, if councils were to place the gutters between the berm and the footpath instead between the tarseal and the berm, so that the berm can function as a swale then almost every problem associated with street trees will be reduced, especially roots breaking into pipes in search of moisture. If subsurface drainage is utilised below the berm then road runoff contamination of stream will also be eliminated.

            I actually agree with everything else you have said for streets that are not shaded all year round by medium/high rise buildings. However, those situations where the streetscape is permanently shaded then the natives I suggested are a superior option to anything exotic as they grow tall and narrow in shaded environments, and the Rimu has a softness of form matched only by the Willow.

            I just stumbled upon a near perfect illustration of my point about dead trees, although this is particularly relevant to softening the “big box” streetscapes. Hopefully the the streetscape link shows one of the ugliest buildings in Christchurch in winter, travel to the left and streetscape switches to summer (2007). If they had planetd Ake Ake the green screen would be there all year round softening the streetscape. (also see if you can spot the additions made to the overpass since 2007).

          11. ‘Looking dead’ is a subjective judgement, to my mind the light blocking nature of evergreens in winter makes for a more deadening effect than deciduous tress with the light glistening through them. Even majestic Pohutukawa and Puriri can just be damp, slippery, and gloomy to be near mid-year. Trees I particularly love most times and places. But, like I say, this is subjective, just my view.

          12. Kevyn the Christchurch example you give is more about the need for screening and we could probably agree that an evergreen hedge would be better than deciduous specimens if you want to screen off something ugly. But when you have a footpath where people will actually walk with an activated edge then a dormant tree works well in winter. Perhaps its ethnocentric of me but I love the look of trees that remind me of the season. Pohutukawas are just gloomy (I have one of them too and apart from a week or so of colour it just sits there) (As an aside Patrick one of the advantages of of suburbanism is you can have your very own collection of trees except of course the Council went and protected them so now I cut, remove or replace at will)

          13. mfwic, yep definitely horses for courses. What works on expressways and in industrial/big box commercial areas isn’t desirable in suburbia.Likewise what meets the needs of tramway commuters in their tramway suburbs isn’t necessarily what works best on CBD streets where tall buildings and awnings shade the footpaths in summer and winter so the focus for streetscape plantings should be more about about adding colour and softness, especially in winter, at least in cities where winters are frosty or snowy (and dry and sunny in the case of Christchurch),

            Patricks argument is easily understood and illustrated in the case of tramway suburbs where developers planted street trees specifically to meet the needs of pedestrians. One of these tramway suburbs in Christchurch has retained magnificent archways of trees despite having overhead power lines!

  6. Can we please get a zebra crossing at the southern end of Lorne St tomorrow? I walk up Wellesley st on the way to the uni along with 1000s of other students and have nearly been runover twice this week. There must be at least 15000 peds a day and fewer than 1500 vehicles.

    1. They should just close Kitchener outside the art gallery, and make it 2 way accessed from Victoria only. Just serves a carpark or 2. Unfortunate side effect of the Wellesley bus only lane is cars turning at high speed from a defacto motorway into what should be a very low speed pedestrian space. Can take a minute or more to cross sometimes with all the cars passing through, and is very dangerous as Sailor Boy mentions above.

      1. I’m not convinced that would be a good idea. The road does more than just serve a carpark or two, it is the main link between the motorway and Mayoral Dr on one side, and several carpark buildings, including the Victoria St carpark, and the area around the back of High St on the other.

        If you cut that off you’d divert that traffic to the likes of Queen St and Princes St. While it pains me a little to say it, we should have good direct routes between the motorway ramps and strategic carparking buildings. If not traffic will simply clog up other streets and intersections, or divert to other parts of town. Better to contain the devil where you can treat it properly than let it loose.

          1. Do you really think it is realistic to shut down four large parking buildings and various skyscrapers private parking, plus parking at apartment buildings where people have their homes?

        1. The reality is if on-street parking was removed and the footpaths widened, the entire street paved with the rough paving stones as per in front of the Gallery and a couple of zebra crossings installed, the street would be perfectly fine as it is. The problem at present is the speed at which cars travel through and the fact that Auckland Transport can’t bear to bring themselves to install a zebra crossing in front of the premier Art Gallery in the city and busy thorough fare to Albert Park. It’s scandalous really. What nimrod in Auckland Transport made that decision and steadfastly sticks to it.

        2. an easy alternative exists for everyone, and that is exiting motorway at Alten Road, and heading down Bowen Ave or Kitchener. Might be an extra minute or 2 but too bad. Or if they forget to do that can go down Mayoral Drive and Albert St. The traffic isn’t that heavy which suggests isn’t critical connection, but heavy enough to seriously annoy people and make it not friendly for pedestrians due to the high speeds that people come from Wellesley.

          1. Traffic is very heavy on the Alten-Waterloo-Bowen/Kitchener route, especially the Alten Rd intersection, one reason I’d like to seem more traffic using Wellesley and making shorter trips. Sending traffic to clog a longer route wrapping around the university to avoid the gallery might be something of a backward step.

            For better or worse we have grade separated underpass that keeps traffic clear of people and buses on Symonds, one fed by grade separated ramps, should use that for the most part.

            It’s also more needed in the longer term to connect with Mayoral. If some of the current plans come off we might have a linear park on Victoria St and a busway on Wellesley, and Queen st closed to traffic. Then a bidirectional roadway to the east to parallel Albert St to the west makes a lot of sense.

      2. Kitchener serves a purpose. I don’t know what alternatives there are there. I’d rather see the traffic there than on Princes St.

        1. Princes Street is always full of traffic on account of the millions of parking spaces. Why doesn’t council remove them and provide space for cycle lanes or anything really.

          1. Removing those carparks would have a massive impact on a lot of people’s ability to access the university. As someone currently doing part time study I have to leave the office in the middle of the day and the ability to park close to the university science buildings saves a lot of time. If I had to park in town and walk up and back it could add twenty minutes to my time away from work which I would have to make up at the end of the day.

          2. I’m pretty sure there is room for parallel parking (as opposed to the angle parking at present) and cycle lanes.

          3. And if the university requires so much parking perhaps they need to invest in a parking building?

          4. A cycle route down Princes St to the new Beach Rd bike paths via Emily Place would be quite useful I would think.

          5. They have invested, built a big new 1,000 bay carpark right next to the Grafton Rd offramps of the motorway. $5 an hour capped at $30 for the day. That actually compares fairly well to Princes St which is $3 an hour for the first two hours, then $6 an hour with no cap.

            Not sure about that cycle route however, the end of Princes St, on to Eden Cres or Shortland St, then down to Emily Place is a real dog topographically. Fundamentally it’s an old headland with no easy way up or down. Symonds-Anzac is probably the better bet, or the Grafton Gully cycleway of course. Having said that it needs improvement as a walking route, it’s like state highway one for pedestrians in the morning coming up the stairs through Emily Reserve.

            Doing this scheme from the City Centre Masterplan would be a good start:

          6. Thanks Nick. So, the parking on Princes is not so needed after all then and some could be removed?

          7. It’s useful for short stay trips across the day, and well used evenings and weekends. I don’t see the need to remove it just for the sake of it. It’s already a low speed, low traffic environment with very fine walking conditions. Bigger fish to fry elsewhere?

          8. Princess st just needs to be made narrower with more zebra crossings and the speed limit of 30 actually enforced. It is the ideal place for parking being in a low commercial value area with good access to the motorways adjacent to an institution that requires short term parking. However if also falls on a major walking corridor so the speed should be appropriate

          9. The problem with the OGB parking building is that it takes quite a while to navigate the carpark, find a park, wait for the lift, then cross Symonds Street to get to the science buildings. Princes Street doesn’t seem nearly as popular as Symonds Street for cyclists. I really don’t see a lot of value removing parking just for the sake of it.

          10. It would also be very easy to link Princes St to the Grafton Cycleway. Easier than cycling up to Symonds St.

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