Yesterday SkyCity released some new details and new images of the approved concept design for the controversial New Zealand International Convention Centre (NZICC).  The new details are in the form of a new 300 bed hotel along with a new pedestrian laneway between Hobson St and Nelson St but first details about the convention centre itself.

“The design includes flexible, innovative convention and exhibition space. Spread over four levels the facility will contain a public atrium entrance, multiple day meeting rooms and a dedicated multi-use plenary theatre able to accommodate 3,000 people for convention and entertainment events. The exhibition floor will be the size of Eden Park’s rugby pitch with a 9 metre high stud and the ability to accommodate two Dreamliner 787
aeroplanes side by side,” says Mr Jamieson.

“In addition, the master plan for the Hobson Nelson Street site will also include a 300 room 5 star hotel and pedestrian laneway both of which will benefit from the increased visitation generated by the NZICC.”

“The success factor of a convention centre is its integration into the city fabric and its ability to deliver an authentic experience for the visitor. The NZICC concept has been developed so the building plays a role in a living, breathing precinct that Aucklanders will be encouraged to use and enjoy. The design of a large plaza entry off Hobson Street, leading to a through site laneway, will provide social, retail and hospitality experiences
for Aucklanders and visitors alike. With the laneway, hotel and plaza, the NZICC will have a significant differentiated offering for the international business events market.”

The NZICC will enhance the rejuvenation of the western edge of the CBD and will provide a catalyst for further visitor and entertainment development in Victoria Quarter and SKYCITY’s Federal Street. Auckland businesses of all sizes will benefit from increased high-value visitation. It will reinforce Auckland’s reputation as a leading, vibrant, international city.

With a total gross floor area (GFA) of 85,000 m2, the NZICC is understood to be the biggest building project undertaken in Auckland since 1997 when the Sky Tower was constructed.

Convention Centre August 2014

A couple of things you can see from this angle.

  • The building is huge and boxy – but that’s not exactly a surprise.
  • There’s a huge vehicle entrance of Nelson St, I wonder how that will work with the proposed cycleway which will be on that side.
  • That laneway looks long, straight and boring, especially as it appears like it will be next to a very high and imposing wall.
  • They are keeping the facade of the building on the corner of Nelson St and Wellesley St
  • No sign of the Victoria St Linear Park in the image which would see much less traffic on Victoria St (can kind of forgive the artist for that one though.

What they don’t say in the press release is about how many carparks there will be. In earlier documents they say the Government would require the centre to have 900 spaces, way more than the 280 that would be the maximum under the parking requirements for the CBD (down to 200 in the Unitary Plan).

Included in that press release was this image of what I assume is part of the laneway and which looks dull and uninviting, especially with that massive blank wall.

Convention Centre Laneway

And detail on the hotel and laneway.

The hotel will be 5 star accommodation offering 300 beds, bringing the total number of beds available within the SKYCITY Entertainment Precinct to nearly 1000. It will be linked by an air bridge to the rest of the SKYCITY, enabling guests to enjoy the best in New Zealand dining, bars, entertainment and the unique Sky Tower experience within a short, covered walk from their hotel room.

“We are also creating a pedestrian laneway adjacent to the new SKYCITY hotel,” Mr Morrison says. “This laneway will be a contemporary version of the historic Vulcan Lane with bars, restaurants and boutique shopping at street level. It will provide a pedestrian walkway linking Hobson and Nelson Streets for Aucklanders and visitors to use and enjoy.”

Design of the hotel and laneway is a collaboration between Warren and Mahoney and Moller Architects. Principal and Executive Director of Warren and Mahoney, John Coop, says we are designing a diverse and exciting place for tourists to visit and for the local community to use.

“The new SKYCITY hotel is a landmark opportunity to create a truly international modern hotel within central city. In Auckland, most of our current four and five star hotels are from a previous era; they are constructed of very solid brick masonry or concrete, and while they may have been successfully upgraded, still reflect the past. With a completely new build hotel, we have an opportunity to use modern technologies and contemporary design and planning methods in the room and fixture design. In a beautifully integrated project, we will create lightness in the way the space feels and capitalise on beautiful
views towards the harbour and urban landscape.”

That laneway with its blank walls, stairs and dark colours will be nothing like a contemporary Vulcan Lane. It also ignores that laneways need to be inviting and useful as both a destination but more importantly lead somewhere interesting. In the case of Vulcan Lane it links O’Connell St, High St and Queen St together and has huge pedestrian volumes. This laneway will link the largely dead Nelson St traffic sewer with the only slightly less dead Hobson St traffic sewer. Even if someone was walking east-west across the city I fail to see why they would detour to use this lane which would then require them to walk back to Victoria/Nelson St’s or use the airbridge and have to walk through the casino. Particularly on Victoria most people would likely just stick to the linear park once that’s built. Here’s an image from the Hobson St side also showing the hotel and two airbridges.

Convention Centre Laneway From Hobson

And here’s an image looking south from the vehicle entrance to the bus terminal, a place where there currently isn’t even a footpath unlike what’s shown. Again you can see that airbridge which is designed to try and keep people firmly within the walls of SkyCity’s property

Convention Centre from Hobson St

Overall the whole thing seems bland and unimpressive, much like the justification for the project in the first place.

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  1. That big vehicle entrance on Nelson St exists already – it’s their carpark entrance that travels underneath Hobson St.

    I both hope, but doubt, that Auckland Council has the power to reject resource consent based on excessive carparking.

    1. > I both hope, but doubt, that Auckland Council has the power to reject resource consent based on excessive carparking.

      Yes, they do, and the whole deal is theoretically conditional on the convention centre getting resource consent in the normal way.

      So, if we had a council which opposed the deal (which we don’t), they could torpedo the thing that way, by refusing to allow the amount of parking the government required in the deal. Hard to imagine them standing up the government, though. Or even if they did so, that the government (assuming it’s still National) wouldn’t just override them with some enabling legislation.

  2. I’m really disappointed with the writer.

    Whilst there will always be a few faults with these projects, the proposed Convention Centre is a massive step up for an area that is well overdue for a makeover. It will be a huge improvement on what is already there.

    Why the writer has chosen to write a negative article about it is a mystery. A bit of balance wouldn’t go astray.

    1. I’m delighted with the writer.

      Whilst there are always a few benefits with these projects, the proposed Convention Centre is a massive missed opportunity for an area that is well overdue for a makeover. It will only make what is already there 100x worse.

      The writer has chosen to write an positive article exposing the mystery beneath the PR. A bit of balance is always welcome.

  3. You’ll notice Vulcan Lane isn’t called Vulcan Laneway. It’s a Lane. I implore you to stop using Laneway, just because that’s what’s cool people call them in Melbourne.

    1. Laneway is a generic term used to describe a public walkway surrounded by development. When it has an official name -like Vulcan Lane or Fort Lane – then that name will be used. Also note the city centre master plan refers to a laneway circuit

    2. I suspect the term ‘laneway’ has been used because the designers hope to conjure positive images of Melbourne’s historic laneways in the minds of the public. As depicted, this is no more than a high sided alleyway between two modern commercial buildings. Don’t expect to find cosy, intimate cafés and rendezvous down here.

  4. Couldn’t care for or against the design, but that part of Auckland is beyond saving anyway. But the special favours between Skycity and government leave a bitter taste. In particular these two should be non-negotiable going forwards. (Ever seen the financials of casinos, they make interesting reading?) 1: There should never ever be exceptions to non-smoking laws for casinos. Those rules protect workers from getting lung cancer. The lives of the workers are worth more than the casino’s owner’s ill-gotten gains. (The owner’s know that addictive behaviours with nicotine and gambling go hand in hand so smokers are easier to exploit, and if they leave for a smoke then they don’t always come back) And 2: all gamblers should get a monthly statement, like a bank statement, of their wins and losses so they can see what numnuts they’ve been in black and white. If that puts them off gambling then good. If that makes giant projects non-viable, then great.

    The best way to look at the gambling industry (it ain’t gaming, it’s gambling) is with the most cynical blinkers on. They are a parasitical industry, offering little, and taking a lot.

    1. Matthew, That’s the best comment I have read on this or any other site for quite some time. “Parasitical” hardly begins to describe these people.
      I never go anywhere near the place on principle.

  5. Unlike in other cities (here and overseas) the Government/Council isn’t paying for it so I’m not too unhappy. It is an improvement on what is there right now and isn’t likely to impeded the development of the area in the future. I’d hope the laneway ends up nicer than Federal Street has.

    1. “the Government/Council isn’t paying for it so I’m not too unhappy”

      Well yes, the Government is chipping a lot of money and a lot of concessions to make it happen, so its not a free lunch for them.
      Auckland Council is not but is having to process the consent application which will be a big one with lots of legal arguments and lawyers needed on all sides.

      And as Aucklanders (both Tax payers and Rate payers and those who will have to live with this day in day out) we will be paying a big price for a long time to come for this bad design in terms of poor amenity, bad connectivity, and the fact that this will entrench the already bad traffic sewer nature of the Hobson/Nelson St de-facto motorways.

      All up the opportunity cost to Auckland of having its construction industry tied up with the biggest single construction project since SkyTower while we also have other mega projects on the go (like WRR) and also CRL and also Christchurch CBD rebuild.

      Madness all round, no other way to put it.

    2. We are paying for it: Sky City’s only funding the thing because we’re giving them concessions with gambling laws. If we’re going to sell our laws, we could just as well do it for cash, and so the “cost” of the convention centre is whatever Sky City would have bribed the government with instead.

      That wouldn’t be as much as $350 million, necessarily, but it’s still a lot of money we’re giving up by not taking our bribe in cash.

      1. The opportunity cost of bribes, ha! Well put. All bribes should be put through a thorough cost benefit analysis to ensure we are getting the best value bribe.

        1. Compared to the appallingly cheap selling-out National’s done over the last few years (Warner, Rio Tinto, Sky City), at least having a good BCR on the bribe would be a step up.

  6. “Particularly on Victoria most people would likely just stick to the linear park once that’s built.” – here’s hoping the Casino doesn’t oppose the park on that basis.

  7. Someone want to tell me what’s wrong with Aotea? You know what would be awesome? Taking the underground carpark at aotea and turning it into more convention space – it’s already got link ups with The Town Hall, Aotea Centre and the Imax building – add in an undercover route to the civic / library, and access to the Aotea station and you’ve got one insanely amazing space.

  8. Agree with a lot of points. The design could be worse and it could be better. It does look like a big walls of blandness at street level like the current casino. You’re right the laneway may struggle to attract life if it doesn’t lead anywhere. I like the idea of the lane but it needs more colour and greenery which is lacking also from federal street. Federal street is saved at night by the hanging lights.

  9. It appears as though the pedestrian canyon would not be a very inviting place even on the nicest of days.
    The whole of the exterior design does not seem to have any street appeal or interest for pedestrian public as it passes through the streets surrounding the facility.
    There needs to be a greater understanding by the architect of the livable nature of our city streets and the street frontage appeal of the facility. At the moment it waould appear to be a place to pass as quickly as possible.

  10. “We are also creating a pedestrian laneway adjacent to the new SKYCITY hotel,” Mr Morrison says. “This laneway will … provide a pedestrian walkway linking Hobson and Nelson Streets for Aucklanders and visitors to use and enjoy.”
    Does this mean it will be a Public Walkway, or private access SkyCity can open and close at will?
    And if it is ‘public’ does that mean we ratepayers will be paying for it ie the council pick up the tab for the ‘laneway’?

  11. The façade proposed for retention on Nelson Street is that of the Berlei building designed in 1930 by Roy Lippincott – the architect of the Arts building at Auckland University College (now Clocktower building, University of Auckland). It’s one of the few neo-Wrightian buildings constructed in Auckland and the destruction of its remaining interior would be an incredible loss to the city’s already diminished built heritage. Frankly, if they intend constructing this pile of crap, they might as well demolish it, along with all the other heritage buildings on the site just to show what a bunch of crass barbarians they really are.

  12. Not very multicultural going by the images supplied!
    That is actually the only thing I enjoy about Sky City (on the once or twice a year I walk through it to get to the cinema), is that it’s one of the more multicultural places in Ak CBD.
    As you were.

    1. Yeah, it appears to be populated by rich young white business people. A little truth about this expanded casino wouldn’t go astray. Where are the Polynesian problem gamblers with their kids locked in the car, the Chinese big wigs coughing up smoke in the street, where are the prostitutes and ice dealers for that matter?

      I half wonder if they will host any conventions at all, or if they’ll happily leave it empty while they soak up the fat profits off more table gambling and pokies? I mean anyone with half a brain knows that convention centres are about as good an investment as new stadiums and peoplemover monorails. So obviously Sky City aren’t planning on making money out of it.

  13. Lanes and arcades that don’t go anywhere seldom work for the public. Vulcan Lane, Queens Arcade and Strand Arcade all have worked for years but Elliot St Mall, St Kevin’s Arcade and a host of other arcades, lanes and walkways not accessing anything much throughout the city are only good for dentists and tattoo parlours.
    We have one huge, dreary canyon in the city already so please not another one.
    I seem to remember Aotea Square being mentioned when the original proposals for a casino were announced along with the old Parnell Train Station. I still think that the original site for Sky City in Upper Symonds St which the then Auckland city Council exchanged for what was to be a western transport terminal on the current Sky City site may have been the better option. Nowdays we need a western transport Terminal far more than we will ever need a pokie parlour.

  14. You seem a little harsh on the laneway based on just concept images. If there are activities (as indicated) located along it it will help to activate the space and draw people down it and make it feel safe. The issue is really will there be enough people in the area to support any retail/ hospitality along the laneway. The inclusion of the hotel will help in this regard but otherwise there doesn’t seem to be a substantial working population in this part of town.

    The laneway also helps in breaking up the overall block size and improves pedestrian connectivity in the area (it does provide a choice for people moving north-east or south-west). The fact that it will connect two traffic sewers is hardly the fault of SkyCity and the laneway could potentially provide an important connection between an upgraded Nelson and Hobson. I also don’t know why you have an issue with a straight laneway, that actually helps as people know where it leads and contributes to a safer, more welcoming environment. The issue really seems to be the effect of the surrounding built form in terms of shadowing and wind effects. Perhaps the materiality of the convention centre can be utilised to help reflect light down into the area?

    1. That laneway is going to be one heck of a wind tunnel. That and the taaaaall canyon walls would put me right off. Bring on the linear park.

      1. A wind tunnel like Takutai Square at Britomart? I went into the “lane” under the Westpac building a few weeks ago, and the howling easterly was like being in Wellington on a bad day!

  15. The press release mentioned they were constructing even more carparks, around 1350 IIRC. An absolutely ridiculous number and one that the council shouldn’t let through. Why does SkyCity think they can simply elect to build 6x what the maximum allowed number is and that the council will just go along with it??

    1. Well realistically the fact that the government required 900 odd of them to be built also implies the government wanted to make use of the opportunity to undermine the city centre, public transport and recent efforts to make the city less car dominated. AC should be following other cities and levying an annual fee for each space, as well as enforcing the parking maximums (which exist for a very good reason). If Skycity wants those spaces then they should be made to purchase an equivalent number from an existing operator and close them down, much as successful cities such as Zürich require.

      1. Since the Council is required to either approve or amend the proposal, there is scope to introduce some controls on the parking, such as limiting the amount of parking sold at earlybird rates and subsidised employee parking for day workers to no more than typical use for these purposes in the current car park, less an allowance for new peak hour access to the new parking spaces. The intent should be no net increase in peak hour traffic into and out of the facility. There should be some planning controls that ensure most of the space is for casual visitors, hotel guests, gamers, SkyCity vehicles and late shift employees. It would be an embarrassment for SkyCity to demand its rights to sell whatever parking it likes to daytime commuters at earlybird rates, while visitors to the complex have to park elsewhere.

      2. I agree BBC. Sky city will argue the parking is essential for operating the core convention business, not for selling to commuters day to day. So they should actually not be allowed to operate it, perhaps the council should run it as a like for like replacement for a council carpark, and shut those down.

  16. It’s wicked but……The long term effects of problem gambling will be apparent and destroy middle/low NZ . The construction will create jobs..short term. Jobs catering this will benefit mid term. The effect of this development will be historical. At the present time….it looks better than the previous plan…..but long term……… far as making New Zealand the 100% Prue nation………Yeah Right! I think we are letting the wrong people sell us out. Over the next 20 years we may have too many of these developments occurring….and by that time….this blog and us will be in wheel chairs saying…………”we should have known better..we should have done more!” it’ll be too late. I agree with progression, I agree with forward thinking and building better units BUT I don’t agree with how this project has undermine the nature of New Zealanders. We’ve just let it happen. I’m sad to think that a Government that WE have employed to run our country…have not listened to us on many matters. This is one of them. I think the NEW Kiwi thinking of ” I’ll make a mess – let the next one clean it up” is very American and is becoming more part of Kiwi life now than ever b4…………….

  17. What is it with convention centres? Christchurch is also set to get one and now Wellington. They are touted as being momentous for local economies, and vital to stop these cities falling behind all the other towns which are getting bigger and better convention centres. Am I missing something here, or are convention centres simply the latest in a long line of rorts whereby big commercial interests can get their hands on public money, developers can get in on the act, and politicians can get their names on things.

    For the past decade or more it has been stadiums. Much was promiosed about how these would be self-funding and hugely beneficial for local economies, though much less has eventuated (ratepayers are still forking out for Wellington’s, and I hear Dunedin’s is something of a millstone). Now convention centres seem to be the latest glitzy gimmick. And according to the politicians and others who support them, they are sooo much more important than boring things like City Rail Links (things which could actually benefit huge numbers of the public on a daily basis!).

    Sure, conventions need to be held somewhere. But I fear we are being duped into embracing gold-plated, mega-convention centres. Convention centres of National Significance, no less (CoNS).

    1. @ Dave B (Wellington)

      This was from a Dominion Post article in March 2014:

      – Wellington City Council provided a $15m non-recourse loan, essentially a grant, in 1998 to help pay for the $130m Westpac Stadium. It was funded through general borrowings.
      – At the same time, the regional council gave a $25m non-recourse loan, to be repaid at $2.6m a year by all ratepayers in the Wellington region by mid-2018.
      – The stadium has since stood on its own feet financially, and is funding a series of improvements. The latest is a new mezzanine lounge, opening in a few weeks.
      – Ms Wilde said there did not appear to be “any great appetite” from individual councils to put more money into Westpac Stadium, although they were welcome to do so.

      So Greater Wgtn are at present clipping the ticket, provided $25m and have collected back over $40m @ $2.6m p.a. and counting (prudent).
      Wellington City pumped in A LOAN!!! not even cash, easily some of the best $15m spent from general borrowings in the past 20 years.

      This is from the 2013 Annual Report (the most recent I could find):

      In a year where we came back down to earth after an outstanding Rugby World Cup, the Trust met all its key targets it set out to achieve:
      • 53 events were hosted
      • A net surplus of $3.06 million
      • Commencement of the Master Plan
      • Hosted five major sporting codes for the first time
      • Over 400,000 fans attended events at the Stadium for the 14th year in a row
      • Passed the 7 million attendee mark since the Stadium opened

      That was the 4th successive year of $3m+ PROFIT… (p. 11)

      I wouldn’t knock Westpac Stadium, it has been fantastic and it is gearing up to SELF FUND from it’s profits (above loan repayments) it’s major stage 2 renovations that have always been earmarked for +Y15.

      Big project, big benefits, big success – end of story.

      1. @ John Keenan

        I fear you have been overly influenced by articles intentionally supportive of Wellington’s stadium, and of course the understandable positive spin put on it via its annual reports.

        The following article offers a different perspective on its economics, with its own CEO admitting that “the best that stadium operators can hope for is to break even”.

        In fact a Google search on stadium economics in general reveals a consistent picture of performance failing to match what was talked-up prior. Sell-out events on which the economics properly depend tend to be a rarity.

        To me, any crowing about the performance of Wellington’s stadium will be much easier to take seriously once I no longer have to see “Stadium Levy” as a deduction on every rates notice.

        1. Wow! Ok the Annual Report is “positive spin”???
          I’m sorry I don’t want to get personal but that is losing the argument right there.

          An Annual Report is a cold hard statement of audited numbers… POSITIVE numbers as I mentioned to the tune of $12m+ over the last four years.

          I have no problem with you attacking stadia in general as uneconomic, just NOT Westpac in Wellington, it quite clearly IS and HAS been economic and good value.

          You won’t have to see “Stadium Levy” after 2018, that is when the agreed 20 year loan repayment period to Greater Wellington will end.

          As for the under performance – things to think about:

          No planning for a Wellington 7s event
          No economic (only ground) planning for AFL
          No planning for a professional soccer team (Phoenix) with All Whites spin offs
          No planning for NRL teams to include the stadium as a “home game” once a year
          No planning for T20 cricket
          No understanding of the concourse ring underneath the stands – success stories unplanned; i.e Beervana

          What does this mean for your “consistent picture of performance failing to match what was talked-up prior”?

          A quote from the long serving former Chief Executive Mr Gray (1997-2013):

          “If we look back at the original stadium feasibility studies in 1996, we assumed on holding 14 regular major events.
          The stadium is now hosting between 40 to 50 major events a year. Last year we welcomed our five millionth patron through the gates,” Gray says.
          “This was a major milestone when the original project plan for the stadium projected that we would host our five millionth patron in 2017.
          We are eight years ahead of the original schedule.”

          As of Jun-2013 7m+ patrons have used the stadium…

          It was NEEDED, it is used, it is a fantastic CULTURAL & ECONOMIC asset for Wellington.

  18. Its good to see on-going confidence in NZ’s economy, and building on a large scale.
    While I’d prefer not to have a casino, the existing associated restaurants, hotel, convention centre and tower provide much needed facilities and attractions.
    The new convention centre will bring exhibition space closer to the centre of population and provide better access than the likes of Alexandra Park. Think Food shows, Boat shows, Home shows, etc., all pretty popular.
    It will also most likely have good access to Aotea station, SkyCity is bound to do a deal to connect the station to it’s neighbouring building, already linked by air bridge to SkyCity proper. The air bridges would provide a totally indoor link, great for a cold, windy, rainy winters day/night..
    It’s pretty hard to disguise what needs to be a big box. The pictures above look alright to me. Many people complained about how the sky tower looked.
    Linking traffic sewers / default motorways directly to a large amount of parking doesn’t sound silly. 1350 carparks doesn’t sound out of place when building a convention centre to hold 3000 people and a 300 room hotel. This will also employ a reasonable number of people. It’s not like the existing carpark is under utilised.
    Further to the casino, if we have to have gambling, I prefer it’s concentrated in the CBD, rather than having pokies distributed around the suburbs.
    I don’t think the negativity expressed above is justified.

  19. This is the single biggest reason that I will not be voting for the current government in this election. Our law should not be for sale to the highest bidder. Also, the justification for building a convention centre of that size is specious at best. By the look of this design, this deal will only result in a bigger casino and a huge monolithic white elephant dominating the western CBD.

  20. The parking is a problem, but I would much prefer getting to town by bus/train for a food/house/armageddon whatever that trying to park out at greenlane. With changes to the road layout (bike lanes, linear park etc) anyone daft enough to drive in will be in gridlock all day and not try again (though no doubt moan about how we need to rip up said changes and add more lanes).

    Are those the kind of events we’re looking at, or just business functions and other crap that the general public has no interest in?

  21. Has anyone attended a conference where the number of attendee’s approached the capacity of this proposal?
    I wonder how effective such a gathering is. I remember attending Ivan Illich lectures in the Maidment Centre a few years ago and felt that was about the optimum size for an effective gathering.
    Political Party Conferences are not really the sort of thing where larger audiences make for effective communication. Look at the USA type political rallies and how effective they are at communicating one way.
    So does NZ need this sort of large scale gathering and if it does is this the best way to go about it?
    I would refer most of those who come up with an affirmative answer to the catch phrase, “The Market Knows Best” so let the market provide it without poky subsidies.

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