There’s been quite a few bits of development news in the last few days that are worth covering. The first is in Albany where an 800 apartment development called the Rose Garden apartments might finally give some hope that Albany won’t be a completely soulless auto dependant centre. The development located on what is currently empty grass land just to the north of the mall is only about 500m away from the Albany Busway station – although more on that shortly.

Albany Rose Garden Location

One of the things I really like about the development is that they are selling one to four bedroom apartments which gives plenty of options – although the price of these larger options will be key. A quick search online suggests most of the four bedroom apartments are around $800-850k (although some are higher or lower). I also like that it appears the development will create activation out to the street edges which is something that will hopefully become more useful as more of the empty space is developed. On the video about the development on the Herald the architects behind the plan talk about density done well and I hope this lives up to that.

Albany Rose Garden 1

Perhaps one of the most interesting things about the sales pitch is to do with transport. There isn’t a single mention of car parking anywhere or even the common “it’s only X minutes drive to the city/beach/airport”. Instead the only mention of transport is that the development is in walking distance to the mall, Massey University, Albany Stadium and the busway station. On the busway station, it does talk about the bus only being only a 20 minute trip to town.

With Albany park-and-ride bus station two minutes’ walk away, you can be in downtown Auckland in less than 20 minutes. But everything you need is even closer to home at the Rose Garden Apartments.

To me this discussion about transport is a positive sign of both how successful the busway has been in changing perceptions about public transport and how much the city is changing away from the drive everywhere mentality. Even though it was already needed it does once again highlight how important it is that the Busway itself is extended from Constellation Station to Albany – something that the government cut out of their motorway project works. I think it also highlights that Auckland Transport will need to work to fix the racetrack like roads around Albany to make it easier and safer for people to be able to walk or cycle to the station.

In other news the Herald have announced (on Twitter) that in November they will move from their long time home on Albert St to office in Victoria St. Their site was sold last year to developer Mansons and is a substantial space in the heart of the city. The timing of the herald moving out is interesting as that’s likely to be just before works start on the CRL in the area. We’ll be looking to see what’s proposed for the site however one thing I do hope that happens is a new lane through the middle linking into Mills Lane.

Herald Site

Lastly it’s also been announced that the foyer of the St James Theatre is to reopen soon.

The foyer of Auckland’s long-abandoned historic St James Theatre will soon re-open as a cafe.

Major seismic strengthening of the whole building was also planned and sophisticated base isolation units being considered.

Mike Gibbon, development director for property owner Relianz Holdings, and architect Paul Brown, this morning said that in a few weeks, St James’ foyer would re-open.

But re-opening of the precious theatre was some years away, they said.

This will hopefully also help to activate some more of Lorne St outside the Library which for too long has had a large blank wall.

Lorne St Shared Space
Lorne St Shared Space

It’s also positive that already over half of the apartments planned have been sold however I do have big concerns about the carparking associated with it which will apparently open out to Lorne St.

St James suites

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48 comments

  1. Albany bus station looks a bit further than two minutes walk, but if they made the roads a bit more cycle friendly it would make a good ride-and-ride.

  2. Ive often wondered what would happen to those large pocket of grass around albany bus station – shopping mall – stadium.

  3. Well the only option for the car parking access to the St James tower or whatever its called is either Queen St or Lorne St.
    I think Lorne is the lesser or two evils.

    If the developer had any sense they’d seek ways to integrate it with the Aotea station entrance (e.g. the one suggested via the back of the ASB Bank building) and to tighten its integration with PT and walking in general for not to distant train and LRT transport offerings.

    1. Yip. Lorene street is better than Queen Street and hopefully the residents won’t actually use their cars much – ideally they would be the only ones using lorne street in the future.

      The big garage entrance on the new NZME building looks terrible – a shame that couldn’t be hidden off one of the side streets. The PwC tower is a good example of the carpark and device entry being hidden around the back.

    2. The no-evil option is zero on site car parks. This an old consent unfortunately, but also the rule followers of Graham St seem to have no ability to negotiate with developers for better outcomes through the consent process, it seems.

      Still if the Council insists on allowing more private parking in the city then they’ll just have to start removing the Council/AT owned ones.

      1. “The no-evil option is zero on site car parks.”

        Your anti-car, anti multi modal bias shows yet again. It is not the job of planners to dictate to people how they should travel. It is the job of planners to provide options to people so that people can make choices. By taking away the option of car parks you are dictating to people.

        There was a very good post on here a few weeks back analysing how the lack of a free market had influenced Houston for the negative. You could do worse than to read that post and think about how your approach would affect Aucklanders for the worse.

        1. There is an enormous difference between not storing a car in a building and not using one. Cars are great, perfect for some types of journeys, unrivalled in fact, but that still does not mean that every building and every place has to have them stored right there. What all great cities are now working towards is lavish access for all modes and away from destructive outcomes because of total access by one mode. Because this makes for more successful cities. Apartment dwellers in the Queen St valley need access to movement, including individual cars, but that is not the same as every apartment building providing 100s of parking spaces. I would not argue the same for dwellings further out where the mix is different.

          I might add i do own an apartment on Queen in a building with no parking, but also own a parking space near by. Currently they are rented to separate tenants as the apartment dwellers don’t want or need the space. In the city such people exist. Might be hard to grasp for those only in the ‘burbs.

          ‘Anti-car’ is a silly accusation. Cars are just tools. In the Queen St valley everything points to their eventual removal. Such an outcome is rational and is in the interests of the city’s economic and social success. Emotional reactions to this thought are not helpful, but common I see. Try to understand that what is best for one place isn’t the case for everywhere, so doesn’t threaten anyone’s emotional identification with bits of tin.

        2. As I wrote that post on Houston’s mad parking policies, perhaps I should add a few points of clarification.

          As an economist, I don’t see regulations as intrinsically bad (or good) things. They are simply a policy tool available to us. They are likely to benefit society when they are managing behaviours that, while privately beneficial, impose negative externalities on the rest of society or the environment. Conversely, when they are managing behaviours without negative externalities (or other market failures such as information asymmetries), they will probably make us worse off.

          Now, a large amount of evidence suggests that driving cars imposes negative externalities – vehicle emissions, risk of accidents, congestion, etc. You might not like this fact, but it _is_ a fact. So if we are comparing two regulations:
          * one of which subsidises driving more (i.e. minimum parking requirements), and
          * one of which discourages driving more (i.e. parking maximums
          it is pretty obvious that the first one is more likely to be detrimental to society. The second one _might_ be beneficial, depending upon other policy settings and the level at which it is set.

      2. Patrick, this is the forces of the free market. As there are no parking minimums in force in the cbd, the market said it wants residential car-parking, therefore the developer built some. These carparks are only used by residents therefore there is no need to reduce council carparking as they are for everyone else.

        Here in Melbourne, most high rise apartment buildings where I live, tend to have around one carpark for every four to five households. There isn’t any parking minimums here I believe.

        As for the new development in Albany, they are awesome. However, the price of the two and three bedroom apartments are key. If they are too expensive then it won’t be great for families and first home buyers. I don’t have high hopes that it’ll be affordable as one bedroom units start from $400,000 I believe. The ‘over and under’ units are likely to be fairly expensive though. The floorplans are very good as all the bedrooms have windows – this cannot be said for Melbourne where some 2 bedroom apartment have no windows for either bedroom, and they cost 550k.. Overall, the development is a very good addition to Albany as it convenient, of a good quality (I hope), good size, in a good location and affordable (hopefully) . I wish that we could turn more of the empty plots into low rise apartments like these and leave one or two plots for a park. Anyway…is there going to be any car parks in the development?

        1. There are actually parking maximums in the AKL CBD, for very good reason. Auckland’s last fifty years proves, if ever there was doubt, that city centre success is inversely proportional to private car quantity there.

        2. Indeed, I can’t find how many there are in the St James but pleased to see that they aren’t bundled, which is to say that the free market is indeed in play, and those who prefer to spend on their living and save on moving about will be able to do so. But I’m pretty sure it’s nothing like the kind of ratio mentioned above for Melbourne buildings; more like one or two per apartment, not ‘one carpark per four or five households’.

    3. Albany proposal is great. That soul-less autopia desperately needs 5 developments like this. And the Council must do everything to encourage the addition of walk/cycle-ways that link the busway station more directly to and through these sites, with activated edges for safety and interest. Those curving great indirect arcs are hopeless for everyone, including drivers.

    4. Also note that the 80s ex-BNZ tower on the same block as the ex-Herald is also finally getting a re-furb for commercial space, now desperately low in city centre. I wait with interest to see what they do with the exterior; will it cease to be our most, err, penile building afterwards?

    5. I went to have a look at the display suite in the St James today. From memory it was 195 car parks for just under 300 units and it appeared from the plans that Lorne St was the entrance for the car park. I was fairly impressed with the design of everything and would have been keen to buy one if I was in the market. They seem to be selling extremely fast. There were several people signing contracts as we looked around. However, my source in the theatre industry is very sceptical they’re going to spend the money required to get the theatre open again as it’s in a very bad state from a technical point of view.

      1. Dave, I agree. I think they will structurally secure the theatre then come back to the council or others to fund the restoration.

        1. Seems likely. It’s a great venue, much more intimate than we build them now. Modern theatres have been influenced by cinema design which now tries to compete with your living room for space and furnishings (gold class). Only Victorian or Edwardian public spaces (and streets!) will give you a really intense collective experience of a live performance. Note in the US they have no word for cinema, the takeover of the theatre by this model is complete.

          So I have little hope I will want to go to the coming vast theatre in the convention centre anymore than I do the one in the current Casino. So am desperate for the return of the St James, no matter how rumpty. Extremely fond memories of seeing Nick Cave there.

          Incidently, can anyone name a more miserable entrance to a performance space than that Sky City theatre? Has all the glamour of a 1970s high school toilet block.

      2. Pleased to hear it’s 2 to 3, parking to dwelling. Still concerned about the impact on the shared space, though pretty confident they won’t all be leaving in the am peak together off to work at Highbrook. More likely to be used only a few times a week for out of town trips etc. which is a common city dwellers auto use pattern.

        Am also optimistic that the old ASB next door will get an upgrade spured on by this, and that is likely to involve the removal of the terrible floors of parking rammed into this block, simply because the space will be much more valuable to the owners let for other uses. In particular the whole of the ground floor facing Lorne street is far too valuable as retail to be lost as a roller door to a parking ramp. The foot traffic here is huge. Would love to see dining up on the podium to, views back to Art Gallery and Albert Park.

        See here for a closer look at this, and other things: http://greaterakl.wpengine.com/2012/11/29/300-queen-st-the-perfect-future-transit-station/

  4. It’s great to see good quality medium density developments like this in the pipeline. Now we need to encourage it throughout all our communities.

    I’ve just returned from a Shape Auckland consultation session in Northcote where Mayor Brown was talking about ways to reduce the rates burden on the elderly. One of the blindingly obvious points he didn’t mention was the ability to downsize to good quality apartment-style living so they can free up capital, reduce their rates burden, stay within their local communities, and pass on their large houses to young families who really need the space.

    Medium density is more that providing an entry level for the young. It’s the ability to right-size for everyone, and keep our communities cohesive with a mix of all ages and income levels. Let’s have more, with quality walking and cycling links to local community, commercial, educational and transport hubs.

    1. Yes it gets a bit tiring hearing elderly complaining about their rates while they live alone in large 4 bedroom $1m homes on full size sections. If they downsized to a 2 bedroom apartment or smaller house on a smaller section then they would not only have a lot more money in their pocket but also their rates bill would reduce significantly whilst freeing up a larger house for families of 4 people.

      1. There are four reasons why elderly are reluctant to move when the family leave home. Firstly is the home has many happy memories. Secondly surprisingly little money is released after paying the costs of sale and purchase. Thirdly, the children often return home. Fourthly modern two bedroom homes provide no space for hobbies.

        1. I sympathise with your first and third points, but the others need questioning.

          Real estate agents – enough said, it don’t think they offer good value, especially in a sellers market like the current one. If your main goal in downsizing is to maximise return then do it yourself, it’s really not hard. [cue mortally offended complaints from industry interests…]

          The last objection misses the point: not paying for a large house frees up cash for other ways of enjoying life. Just spend on space, tools, membership, access in another way. Or just focus on the idea of downsizing. You can’t take it with you after all…

          Not meaning to disrespect the choices that older people very legitimately make, but we all make excuses to ourselves for not making choices that we know are good for us. Purely anecdotal, but all the older people who I know that have downsized had never looked back, my grandparents and father especially.

        2. For those elderly who can’t afford to pay their rates there is another option. Most of them are asset rich as they have long paid off their mortgage and they have also experienced massive increases in the value of their homes. They could take on a small amount of debt against their properties and use that to pay their rates. Repayments of the debt would be very small and if they were to eventually sell (or die) the debt would be easily covered by sale of the house.

        3. This area is something the LGNZ is trying to get on the table with rating reforms. Ideas such as allowing local councils to put the rates against the property redeemable when its sold or transferred would be a good start.

          I am sure that any such loan or “lien” against some pensioners $1m+ house will be easily paid back handsomely from the uptick in property prices they get over the period of time they have their rates loaded against their house, even if it was 20 years.
          So it may be best to leave them be where they are, as long as they can still manage, then sell up the house and repay the council rates debt then (plus interest of course).

          If LGNZ can get something like that put in place and widely then immediately a lot of the arguments about asset rich and cash poor pensioners can’t afford such increases in rates simply goes away.

          Having said all that my mums rates in Christchurch are not that much lower than Aucklands average rates and her property is worth 1/3rd of the Auckland average, she pays her rates on her own from her single person superannuation without being in penuary as a result.

          Yet she still adamantly believes she is desperately poor, no matter how big her bank balance, is in part because she knows everything costs way,way more these days than it did back in her day (i.e. $100 goes a lot less now than it did then), but she doesn’t understand that her income is also a lot higher (and probably more) than it was when she last worked. She complains about her rates too by the way.

        4. Funny reading these comments while up at my grandma’s place watching the cricket. She’s lived alone since 1990 in a house without a mortgage. Fixed income. She occasionally thinks of downsizing or moving into a retirement community, but she’s decided to hold onto the house for a number of reasons, including:
          * Familiarity and memories – it’s tough leaving a place you’ve lived in for a long time
          * Having room for visiting family – various cousins, aunts, and uncles visit from out of town, and grandma’s house has always been the central gathering place
          * A lack of good, affordably priced alternatives – there are more townhouses and retirement communities going up in the area, but the market’s still a bit thin.

          Staying in place does have its challenges, though. She’s less and less comfortable with driving, and isn’t really up to walking too far. The shops and church aren’t _too_ far, but they’re just far enough to be difficult to get to on a daily basis. The local streets are also pretty shocking for people on foot – no cross-walks anywhere within a reasonable distance, and poorly-maintained sidewalks.

        5. Excellent reply. The lack of affordable alternatives is a big factor. It is no point in loosing all those memories and sense of being part of a community if you come out of the deal with only $100-200k cask. Smaller houses do not sell for much less than larger houses and with perhaps $80k selling costs not worth the emotional hurt.

        1. Because older people see little benefit for the additional council spending. They travel off peak so do not meet rush hour traffic and do not use all the Council funded activities that they are being taxed for. They are happy for motorways to be tolled because they hardly use them. Rates are using more and more of their limited income. No matter how worthy the expenditure, no one likes being taxed for something they do not benefit from.

        2. Really? Have you heard of the Gold Card? Uniquely beneficial to old people, a benefit that depends on the rest of us supporting the services they get to ride for free. Look if a retired person insists on remaining in a vast mansion on a huge site and driving everywhere that’s their business, but if they can’t afford to because of insufficient private wealth I hardly think that’s society’s problem. We all have to make ends meet.

          I certainly want to live in a society where every old person can expect to have all their basic needs met, but it is extremely unrealistic to expect support for disproportionate tastes. Even ones that were reasonable 50 years ago [big sites/houses], or when they were working or had much bigger households.

    1. Right, and Lorne street is such a prime spot for businesses such as cafe’s. It basically sits at the foot of AUT and has the library across. Drink coffee, lounge about, read, chat or study? I think so.

  5. So, help me out here. Where exactly are the 195 carparks for 300 apartments at St James going to go? Underground? Or above ground? From what I understand, there is a large Spanish Mission style theatre and arcade at ground level, so the only space I can see above ground is that gridded bit about 6 floors tall, directly facing onto Queen St.
    Really? Tell me that isn’t so! The best that Auckland can do for its main street is allow a 6 storey car parking building in the centre of its entertainment area? I hope I’m wrong. I hope it’s underground instead. Even better would be if the car parking was absent altogether. As Patrick says – park your car elsewhere. Not needed in Queen St or Lorne St.

    1. My guess is about four floors of parking in the podium on the queen st side, with retail under and apartments over.

    2. Looking at the plans on display at the show room it appeared that the car parks will be on the Lorne St side just north of the theatre. They only had plans for levels 3-7 on display and they were all car parks. There was also a level for storage lockers but I couldn’t see how they fitted in with the car parks.

  6. 20 years ago that land in Albany was just green fields waiting for development. They could have built any street pattern imaginable, and they decided on a couple of random sweeping, widely spaced roads with oversized roundabouts on every intersection. Its bloody tragic.

    1. Exactly. Daft auto-centric planning, will now have to be worked round. This is the problem with these growth periods, they’re full of possibility but other forces are at work. And what gets built now we will all have to live with for decades and decades. It’s no small thing. Good example here, but bigger one in city centre, the defining characteristic of Auckland as a city is having work somehow despite the great strangling noose of 60s motorway ring…

      1. This has to go from an unmitigated planning disaster to a mitigated one in short order to save the suburb from itself.

        Those giant blocks of land look more like they are intended for a 60’s or 70s office park development, the sort of developments with acres of parking around it that exists in the Hutt valley in Wellington right now.

        I can’t see Westfield doing any mall development there that doesn’t follow that mould, but since they are now exiting the market here, who knows what the new owners will come up with.
        Certainly be hard to do worse than a(nother) Westfield thats for sure.

        1. Have been saying this for ages. Need to act quickly to break up block sizes and de-scale the road network.

      2. Except despite being auto-centric it’s no good for car drivers either.
        Overcrowded, terrible phasing, generally just a giant block of congestion.

        1. Yes that’s the extraordinary thing; it’s just poor design all round, for everyone. Can be mitigated, as Greg says, but won’t be totaly fixed, that core structure will always be there. Have to be worked-round, perhaps this may lead to some creative solution with unexpected advantages, we will see.

    2. What is the problem with the block sizes? They have stuck in some main roads and the owner can break them up with any little roads they want. If you put the little roads in before you know what is going on the land you constrain development. (and no I didnt do it). The problem with Albany and sites like St James and the Elliot St one is that people value the potential higher than the reality so nothing gets built. I remember the first big building on the St James site proposal when I was at Auckland city about 1989 or 1990. Around the same time the Elliot St site was cleared! I will be pleasantly surprised if the current round amounts to much either.

      1. I’m not suggesting they should be roads by the way. The problem with large block sizes is they don’t promote walkability, a key component of an urban centre. The block sizes in Albany are huge and I don’t trust developers to resolve this.

  7. And in other good news the proposed st James building will have a supermarket in the basement! Great news for those tired of the long queues at countdown Victoria st.

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