Unitec’s submission on the Proposed Unitary Plan outlines a pretty radical change to their Mt Albert campus, downsizing the actual educational campus from 53 hectares to around 10 and developing a major residential and commercial area on the rest of the site. Probably the most extensive coverage so far was in yesterday’s NZ Herald.
Ede explained the background to plans for the 53.5ha site, much of it now park-like open space which the locals love.
He wants 43.5ha to be leased or sold for intensive residential and commercial development and Unitec squeezed down to 10ha. The deal would use the land to generate money to run the institute and allow Unitec to step out of its seismic building noose, which now concerns him.
The concept plan for what’s proposed is below:
Martin Skinner said the neighbourhood was already regularly grid-locked mornings and afternoons from the huge influx of Unitec traffic. Yet Unitec had not tackled traffic management or implemented public transport or pedestrian initiatives.
“Residents can no longer park cars in the surrounding streets during the day, and it’s unsafe for children to walk to schools and kindergartens,” he said.
Cathy Casey, an Auckland councillor, said that in the first round of applications for Special Housing Area status in November, Unitec applied to build 800 units on their site.
“It was rejected,” she said…
…But Derek Battersby, of the Whau Local Board, backs it.
“Bring it on,” said the outspoken JP, predicting a big urban revival in the area if Unitec gets the green light.
“The opportunity for Unitec to put land aside for residential housing on their Carrington site is one that should be encouraged and considered as a Special Housing Area.
“It a great opportunity to create something quite special, promoting excellent urban design principles and open space,” he said.
However, Casey said Unitec’s SHA for 800 places was rejected by the council.
But Battersby said the scheme would revitalise a wide area of the isthmus.
“Carrington/ Unitec is within a substantive residential catchment taking in Point Chevalier, Mt Albert and Avondale. It is also close to St Lukes mall, Lynn Mall and public transport nodes,” he said.
A trade analysis study would show a significant opportunity for the local shopping precincts to redevelop into vibrant economic retail areas, yet these places now look unloved, he complained.
“There will be many detractors similarly with Auckland’s Council’s Unitary Plan process,” he said.
At a high level you’d struggle to find too many better opportunities for large scale redevelopment in inner Auckland. Not too far south you have the Mt Albert train station, not too far north you have Pt Chev and all the Great North Road buses which will include those that might eventually form part of a North West busway. In addition under the new public transport network there will be two frequent bus services running along Carrington Road – giving it a level of PT service provision similar to what Dominion Road has now. A large number of additional residents would also support the town centres of Mt Albert and Pt Chev, which feel like they’re just bumbling along a bit in recent years.
With a further tweak to the transport network you could also help a major permeability problem in the inner western part of Auckland plus improve public transport access into Unitec and avoid Great North Road buses from getting stuck in traffic at the Waterview interchange. The idea is a bus/cycle/pedestrian bridge from Great North Road over into the Unitec site – a kind of modern day Grafton Bridge that could surely be built in such a way that avoided any negative effects on the creek below. This would enable Great North Road buses to hook through the Unitec site before returning to Great North Road via Pt Chev. Something like this:
It would also hardly be unreasonable for Unitec to pay for the bridge – given the benefit they will gain from the proposal as a whole. Whether private vehicles should be able to use it is a tougher question, with a balance to be found between the permeability gains against the potential for it to be a major through-route. Perhaps something for the comments thread to discuss further. This type of routing would also ensure that we avoid the “Stonefields mistake” of creating a new urban area completely disconnected from its surrounding area and as a result developing in a highly car dependent manner where the only buses that go in have to basically do a “U-turn” and come back out the same way.
Overall the Unitec site seems like a great location for further growth to occur – certainly better than Wesley, Kumeu south, Helensville or other silly areas where Special Housing Areas have been approved. The proposal provides a significant amount of open space (see page 170 of here) and with a relatively small intervention we could ensure it’s incredibly well served by public transport travelling to many different parts of Auckland.