24: Missing from the City Centre

24 Stuart

What if the city centre had more shops and services for its 27,000 odd apartment dwellers?

As is well documented on this blog, Auckland’s city centre is undergoing a pretty radical transformation before our very eyes. Much change has occurred for the better over the past 10 years or so and trustfully there is much more to come.

It is interesting to reflect at this time on some of the things missing from the city centre. Things that you might expect in comparable places elsewhere. One of these is specialist retail catering to the needs of New Zealand’s largest and densest population of apartment dwellers.

A pet shop, a plant shop, and a micro hardware store (a Mitre 10 Mini anyone?!) are three examples that I am sure there is real demand for and would enhance the liveability of the city centre.

Stuart Houghton 2014

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52 comments

  1. Given the Victoria St Countdown’s huge success I think other retailers who traditionally ignored the city centre may be rethinking their approach.

    1. That is Countdown’s most profitable store per square metre! Then factor in that they aren’t paying for parking, or the land it sits on! They’d have rocks in their heads to not be doing more urban stores, or more particularly supporting the removal of Minimum Parking Regs so that they can.

  2. Bunnings has spent much money trying to build a store in Grey Lynn. I doubt anyone would be foolish enough to try anywhere closer to CBD for many years. To offer an attractive product range these stores need to be big.

      1. > I’ve been to plenty of urban scaled hardware stores in overseas cities, is Auckland ready for one? I reckon.

        Well, Auckland does have small hardware stores: both specialist stores (there’s several specialist plumbing stores in the CBD, for example), or little Hammer Hardware stores in suburban centres, which is what a downtown hardware store would be like.

        There technically is a hardware store in the city centre already, although it’s right on the very edge: corner of Cook and Union.

        I do wonder how much traction a pet store will get somewhere that most people aren’t allowed to have pets in their apartment, or a garden store where most people can’t have anything more ambitious than a bonsai pot plant. But there’s definitely a lot missing. There’s not even a pharmacy west of Hobson Street, for example. Let alone the school everyone mentioned.

        1. Well to combine a couple of these thoughts: I believe the Council owns the Cook St Placemakers site, and once we fix the terrible motorway offramp and general Traffic Engineering mess around it there is a great location for a new school, sell to the Min of Ed, use some of the money to to un-fuck the neighbourhood from Motordom’s ruination and bingo; nicely placed gently slopping sunny school site near heaps of apartments.

          1. By improving the huge land waste caused by the the road design through there you can end up with a big site, big enough for intensely built school and some fields. The fields of Auckland Girls and Western Park are just across the m’way too, but the main thing is to not build a typical sprawling low rise school but an and an intense one with maximised high quality outdoor space. And for the love of god get all those many square metres of wasted space around the site that the idiot Traffic Engineers lost to little triangles of grass and jigsaw pieces of parking between their swooshing curving mini motorway roads.

      2. We often go to the Pt Chevalier Hammer Hardware – which is pretty pocket-sized. However, I often wish it was larger, because often it doesn’t stock what I want. So I have to drive to bloody Lincoln Road to get it, which isn’t very urban either, having to go that far by car. I will certainly be using the Great North Road Bunnings – but then I must admit I am biased (professionally involved).

        1. Is the Hammer in Newmarket still there? Seemed ideal for local apartment dwellers….

          There are more choices near you in New Lynn, open and coming….better than Lincoln Road. Anything is better than going to Lincoln for that stuff…

          1. “Is the Hammer in Newmarket still there? Seemed ideal for local apartment dwellers….”

            Sadly closed down and turned into a shoe store. You’re right – it was.

  3. Smallish fruit & veg stores, bakerys, delicatessens…so much opportunity for forward thinking retailers. Hard to understand why these shops are not already there (but suspect the high rents and poor access has something to do with it!!)

    1. Sorry to piggy-back on your comment Nick, but I can’t log on anymore. As a CBD resident another issue for me is cbd store opening hours in the weekend. I appreciate retail staff need a bit more time in the weekends but the traditional model is 10 to 5. A lot of people like myself walking around waiting for the shops to open. Maybe they could open a bit earlier and close earlier. Catering for the people living in the centre,

        1. Unfortunately, it’s the retail staff who wear the problems for your suggestion – long hours without breaks etc. I have worked retail and I know that when opening hours are extended, they don’t add extra shifts, they just turn your 10hr into a 12hr (or 8 into 10).

          Employment is about the worker, not just the customer

          1. If only there was a source of 50,000 potential part time workers nearby who are busy in lectures most of the day but would really appreciate a few hours employment later in the evening and on weekends…

          2. Yeah, the Auckland Central City has approx:

            >90 000 workers
            >60 000 students
            <30 000 residents

            And rising. Not a bad market and resource [staff] and all in a very compressed area. A City.

      1. As a C.B.D. resident I would much prefer even later opening and closing. Who wants to shop at 10a.m. on weekends? You seem to want it but I reckon you are in a small minority.

        1. Not from what I observed in the weekend. Lots of people around at 9 o’clock looking for shops to open. You probably haven’t noticed it because it sounds like you’re a bit later to do things.

  4. One of those new, mini-Ikeas in the redeveloped Downtown, or better still, somewhere around K Rd so that buyers can cycle downhill with their purchases on their Ikea rental cargo bikes. That will put an end to Bunnings’ autofantasias. Things are changing and it’s not following the dreadful suburban model. As for shop times, just follow the Parisian model: late opening hours; late closing hours, ergo, a civilised place where you can buy your produce from small, specialist shops.

  5. What’s the point being made here? Is there any barrier to shops like a “micro-hardware store”, pet shop etc opening in the CBD? Not that I can see. All that’s required is demand and someone to take the initiative. The fact that it hasn’t happened yet probably implies there isn’t a demand. Probably reflecting that CBD apartments are probably still full of students or transient visitors, rather than the young urban professionals you’d like.

    1. There are few barriers to entrepreneurs in New Zealand, although I think the point being made is that the business community aren’t looking at the opportunity, more at the cost. If I’m reading things correctly, Bunnings have produced the big box solution in Grey Lynn, with appropriate levels of NIMBY and planning consent drama that is scaring other potential investors, whereas commenters on this blog are looking for smaller and more accessible options closer to where they are, with a variety of opinions on opening hours. Whether commenters here are typical is a different but related question.

      The issue that has been alluded to but not stated definitely is that no one knows what the demand is as the CBD transitions from students and transients through to people choosing to live in the CBD and bemoaning the lack of services. Some of this is not helped by the difficulty of larger businesses to successfully conduct market research through more accepted or traditional means. For example how many people do you know that no longer have a land line in their house?

      Most businesses are risk averse and without the ability to quantify the demand there is little appetite for investment.

      I hope my line of argument is proved wrong rapidly, but somehow i doubt it.

  6. The CBD rents are outrageous and denies any small owner operated businesses. An Auckland Council operated city centre Farmers Market would overcome this but I couldn’t hope to suggest where it would be situated. And like the suburban markets these enterprises get swamped with Asian Two dollar shops stalls.

  7. I think most if not all but the most expensive “luxury” apartments allow pets in the CBD. So, pet shops probably won’t happen util body corps start allowing and landlords start thinking about all the extra rent they can charge would be pet owners. I lived in two apartments in the CBD and had to get special permission to keep guppies. However, the grocery stores are selling pet food which is handy for office workers to grab pet food on their way back home to suburbia. Also, not many small parks to walk a small apartment size dog in the CBD unless you live near Myers Park or Albert Park – but those aren’t exactly convenient.

    1. Most of the BCs allow pets it’s usually the owner who thinks no pets will mean less wear and tear, and with demand the way it is there’s no real pressure to need to allow them. If you own then you can generally have a pet.

      1. If only the people who take their ***ing dogs to Victoria Park actually knew the rule:
        “The region-wide rule that prohibits dogs on any sports surface (unless exceptions are stated) and that requires dogs to be kept under control on a leash in the vicinity of any sports surface when in use continues to apply. This note is specified in relation to particular parks where a sportsfield is known to exist to assist readers.”

    2. That’s my big concern – Auckland CBD is bereft of grass – vancouver downton has green edges and plants everywhere but the oldest bits of the downtown core – In Auckland I’d have to take my dog to do it’s business amongst people sitting in parks, which I’m not willing to do – it would piss me off if someone else did!

  8. Wouldn’t queen’s arcade make an excellent market? Like elliot stables, but for groceries – a butcher, fishmonger, fresh fruit and veg, cheese, bin-inn, wine/beer boutique, homewares store (already there), coffee shop (already there). Services upstairs (barber, etc). bash a big hole through where the new merino tourist shop is and open it onto fort lane…

    *wisftul sigh*

    1. That is an awesome idea. I get my hair cut upstairs there and the mall is struggling. Your idea would really revitalise it.

      You should suggest that to Ludo Campbell-Reid. It is exactly the kind of thing he is interested in.

      1. As do/did I! I’ve raised it with the Dilwoth Body corp about how we should work more closely with Queen’s Arcade as if you think about it, we’re our own little block, but struggling for any traction – lots of internal issues to sort I guess.

        It’s more up to Queen’s arcade I imagine. I’ll drop a tweet (and remind him about the time I asked him why they can’t put planters to close queen street on weekends) – something like QVM in melbourne (the indoor bits) (http://s1.at.atcdn.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Queen-Victoria-Markets-1.gif)

  9. The general concept of improving inner-city amenity is a good one, but I think we should be careful before we encourage more capitalism/

    The CBD gives us a unique chance to masterplan the world’s most liveable city.

    It seems to me that a series of public-owned shops (hardward, pets etc.) operating under similar lines to Aotea Centre etc would be wonderful
    1. We get our amenity
    2. We don’t encourage parasitic capitalism

    Over time, we could begin to move more and more of the CBD under public ownership and potentially over the long term we could see an entirely public-owned Auckland, with capitalists removed.

  10. There was an unsuccessful Placemakers City next door to us on the corner of Wellesley St west and Nelson St a couple of years ago. I thought it would be brilliant for picking things up on the way home for DIY projects and ideally located near the nelson/hobson st apartment areas. Sadly, it didn’t last very long at all (6 months max.), the owner explained that it was too hard to work out what people needed, no space for deliveries other than small vans and they had only a small range of each product so never had what you needed. Perhaps a more clever system of internet ordering with same day delivery to a small store front that becomes just a pickup depot for CBD workers who don’t want to trek out to the mega malls.

  11. PB Tech seem to have successfully opened two shops in the CBD (one in Queen St and one on the university campus). The Queen St one is very large but has no ground floor frontage. The university is small but seems to have plenty of stock crammed in somehow.

    1. It’s a big relief – their prices are generally pretty competitive and the store is book with pretty good stock – always been a mish for computer components but less so now, can grab something on the way back from New World Metro (downtown is almost great!)

  12. Shops opens till late and bus operate later during the nights.

    Outer LINK bus should be free (or very cheap) so people can park close to city and ride to city.

    Pet shops couldn’t survive because most apartment doesn’t allow pets.

  13. I had a pet bunny rabbit in my apartment but a dog is a different kettle of fish.
    It’s amazing how often I visited the warehouse when I lived across the road. Terrible store, but very convenient for hardware, homewares, pet stuff, etc (and it has late hours). Placemakers is pretty close by, but the big hardware purchases can’t be carried far or taken on a bike. Maybe Mitre 10 should consider late night free deliveries to CBD locations?

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