The council and Precinct Properties have announced that they’ve come to an agreement for the sale of Queen Elizabeth Square and the costs for the City Rail Link to go through the site.
An agreement between Auckland Council and Precinct Properties announced this morning will enable the construction of the City Rail Link (CRL) to get underway through the company’s Downtown Development project at the bottom of Queen Street.
Mayor Len Brown is heralding the milestone as an historic moment for Auckland: “This is the first step towards the construction of the CRL. It will lead to an exciting transformation of the public spaces around the Britomart train station area. And it’s an example of how a partnership with the private sector can deliver economic transformation and more jobs in Auckland.”
The alignment of the CRL requires new rail tunnels to be constructed through the site presently occupied by the Downtown Shopping Centre, which is owned by Precinct Properties along with two adjacent commercial office towers, HSBC Tower at 1 Queen Street and Zurich House at 21 Queen Street.
The deal between the two parties enables the rail tunnels to be built as part of the Downtown Development Project.
- The sale to Precinct of Queen Elizabeth Square for $27.2 million
- Payment to Precinct of $9 million for provision of an East-West pedestrian laneway between Queen Street and Albert Street and compensation for tunnels volume
- Payment of $10.7 million for additional costs of office tower construction due to CRL tunnels
- Creation of a new downtown civic space between the project and Britomart
The sale of Queen Elizabeth Square was approved by Auckland Council’s Development Committee on 11 September 2014 after a report to council by staff pointed out the proceeds of this underutilised and poorly performing city space would enable the creation of new public spaces that better meet the needs of the area.
Len Brown says: “The agreement demonstrates the council’s positive business-friendly approach to city centre development while securing a great result for the ratepayer as it means cost savings for both parties.
“It ensures a coordinated approach to the construction work – with Auckland Transport building the CRL tunnels either side of the Precinct downtown shopping centre site from Britomart to Wyndham Street and Precinct Properties building the tunnels below its site.
“The Downtown Development Project will help create jobs giving the potential for 12,000 more people to be working close to public transport at Britomart.
“It is also the key to a number of projects that will kick-off the creation of a world-class downtown area including improvements to public space, transport facilities and urban design.”
Those improvements include:
- The replacement of an aging 40 year old shopping centre with the Downtown Development Project enhancing retail in the area with a three-level retail laneway development while the commercial office tower will deliver much-needed office space
- The creation of a pedestrian laneway, which re-instates a north-south link from Customs Street to Quay Street once existing as Little Queen Street. This link was lost during the large-scale demolition in the area in the 1970s
- Moving towards the establishment of a Lower Albert Street bus interchange which would enable a pedestrianised civic space to be created in front of Britomart presently existing as a road occupied by buses
- The protection of key views to important adjacent heritage buildings including the ferry building, Customhouse and the Dilworth building
The Mayor says: “Aucklanders have made it clear the CRL is their number one transport priority and this brings us closer to enabling a start to construction in about a year’s time.”
Construction of the Downtown section of the CRL is due to begin mid-year with completion by 2019. Tenders are due to go out later this year.
It’s great that we’re seeing some progress on the CRL and $19.7 million for it through this section is probably quite cheap compared to what it would have been had Auckland Transport been forced to buy the site had Precinct not been willing to work out a deal. That we’ll also get North-South and East-West lanes is good (more on that soon).
The issue that might cause some people concern is bound to be the sale of QE Square. Months ago when the suggestion came up we were told it could be worth up to $60 million so the council selling it for $27 million is obviously quite a bit less than that. One thing worth pointing out though is that based on the surrounding land values which are up over 9,500 per m2 this doesn’t seem such a low price.
Also this morning Precinct Properties have released a few images of what the development on the downtown site will look like. The main feature will be a 36 storey office tower which will have quite an impact on the skyline.
They’ve also released this image of the East-West laneway which will be surrounded by three storeys of retail. The big concern I have with this is that it appears to be enclosed with a roof giving it more of a mall feel than an open air lane.
Overall it’s great to see progress being made and I’m definitely looking forward to the first stages of the CRL starting in the middle of the year.