Transforming an entire city centre is no quick and easy task. In 2012 the council adopted the fantastic City Centre Master Plan (CCMP) which laid out the vision for Auckland’s city centre over a 30 year period and identified a huge number of potential projects. The Council’s City Centre Integration Team (CCIG) which is made up of staff from across the wider council family have been tasked with turning that vision in to a reality. As such they are creating frameworks for a number of areas within the city centre which are intended to bridge the gap between the strategies and reality. Almost exactly a year ago we saw the first of these frameworks – The Downtown Framework – emerged looking at the area north of Customs St. Now it’s the turn for the core of the city centre – Aotea.
The area surrounding Aotea Square is home to some of Auckland’s most prominent art, civic and cultural and entertainment buildings – many of which have played a big role in the cities heritage. The map below highlights some of these
The core of the plan seems to focus on the area within the solid red line on the map above the wider framework area looking at how the Aotea Precinct interfaces with the other frameworks that will be developed over time.
One of the big drivers for change over the coming decades will be the huge level of public transport investment that will be going in which will make it easier for significantly more people get to or pass through the area as part of their journey. The key PT projects are highlighted below and Aotea will be one of the best connected locations in Auckland.
In addition to the big transport investments is a recognition of the need to improve walking and cycling connections. Just where those will be are better shown on some of the detail below.
Within the area four general areas have been identified as having development opportunities and all around the edge of the precinct with Mayoral Dr and Albert St. They are shown below
Site A: Aotea Station/West Bledisloe
Once the CRL has been finished this is likely to be one of the hottest pieces of land in Auckland. Currently it’s a carpark for which the entrance combined with the entrance to the Civic Carpark it totals up six lanes of driveway that pedestrians need to cross. As the document correctly says “this prominent site fails to contribute to the public realm quality of the area or the growth node ambitions”.
The framework is proposing two new buildings plus the CRL entrance could go on the site with new lanes between the buildings and alongside the western edge of the Bledisloe building. The document says developing the site could provide up to 28,000m² of lettable space.
Site B: Aotea Centre
This site has already been in the news this week as one of the Council’s CCO’s want to re-clad the building in bronze coloured stainless steel. In addition there is talk of expanding the building itself to provide more studio space and practice rooms. The aspect most interesting to me is the creation of a new pedestrian link direct from the Cook St/Mayoral Dr intersection through the centre and into Aotea Square.
Site C: Civic Administration Building and Surrounds
The Civic building was originally meant to have additional wings on its western and eastern sides but they were never built. That has left a lot of space surrounding the Civic building with potential for development.
Site D: South Town Hall
Ever since Mayoral Dr was ploughed through the area in the 70’s this area has been a carpark. The desire is to better improve connections between Aotea Square and Myers Park so it is proposed to build a courtyard along with a 5-8 storey building. The courtyard will tie in with plans to improve the Mayoral Dr underpass which are expected to be completed mid to late next year. With the courtyard there would be a series of linked public spaces all the way from K Rd though to Victoria St. The council also own the site up to the corner of Mayoral Dr and Queen. They suggest either another building could go there or something else like Spanish-style steps up to Queen St.
The map below shows the potential development of the area along with some of the new pedestrian/cycle links that have been proposed. Through all of them you can see there is a desire to finally start activating the edge of Mayoral Dr, something that’s long overdue and likely to help in over time making Mayoral Dr less of the mini expressway it acts like.
Consultation on the draft framework is open till 22 October.