Last week the council announced the outcome of consultation into the design of Freyberg Square and the Ellen Melville Hall. The proposal was for the hall to be upgraded including removing the ground floor retail and turning that into a community space. The square would be upgraded and importantly Freyberg Place would be would be pedestrianised and incorporated into the square. In to total they received 337 pieces of feedback.

Freyberg Square Proposed Design

The report on the consultation (1.5MB) shows there was strong support for both the upgrade of the square and the hall with only four percent saying they don’t like the design of the hall and 7 percent saying they don’t like the design of the square.

Freyberg Square-Ellen Melville Hall consultation feedback - general

As you can also see there was strong support for the removal of Freyberg Place and on it’s own it had one of the most lopsided responses. Out of the 306 responses to the idea a massive 84% supported the idea.

Freyberg Square-Ellen Melville Hall consultation feedback - road removal

The council say that those that opposed the changes were mostly local businesses, some of who have long been vocal supporters of retaining the status quo for the entire area. The quoted comments in the report mostly talk about concerns of flow of traffic and congestion from removing the street however in the report they also talk about it being very lowly used in which case removing it won’t really have an impact. Anyway if it did happen to cause congestion it might mean a few more drivers look out their window and actually see the shops and want to visit them, at least there would be a better chance of that than if they are racing through.

Unsurprisingly a similarly strong number also supported changes proposed to Courthouse Lane which included changing the direction and adding a raised table between the square and the Chancery.

Freyberg Square-Ellen Melville Hall consultation feedback - Courthouse Lane

Again most of the support seems to have come from the general public while it is retailers who are the most concerned about the changes and also again they seem overly worried about traffic flow. They also note that quite a few who disagreed with the raised table idea highlighted that they weren’t sure what a raised table was with some questioning if it meant some kind of pedestrian overbridge.

The council also asked what could be done better for the two aspects of the proposal. For the hall the biggest responses were primarily about issues such as seating and how the space was used. For the square the concern was also about seating, security and other aspects such as the security and planting choices

Freyberg Square-Ellen Melville Hall consultation feedback - areas to address

Lastly the survey also briefly asked about how to improve the wider area. The two largest responses were for a shared space or no cars at all.

Freyberg Square-Ellen Melville Hall consultation feedback - Wider area

There are of course some who oppose the idea of a shared space on High St and they are almost certainly going to be the same people who have opposed the closing of Freyberg Place. The example of O’Connell St is used with them claiming it has been a failure

Because of the feedback from the businesses the council have said that they and Heart of the City are going to work with the businesses to try and find potential solutions. Given the line in the sand approach these some of the retailers have taken in the past over issues it’s hard to see them getting a different outcome. If that comes to pass it raises the question of at what point the council push ahead with improvements knowing that the vast majority of people want a better outcome. Unfortunately there are also no time frames around when these discussions will take place or be finished by.

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  1. My Body Corporate includes a high up in HotC and I remember walking back from a BC meeting along the under-conversion O’Connel street and hearing said person lament the situation (the parking being removed). I expressed my shock and suggested that the results would be good for the (then dismal) area but they seemed unconvinced. After the official opening their position (as an Organisation) seemed much more in favour, so hopefully the results of it and Fort street (+lane) have convinced them to take the side of change here.

    In terms of the plans, I’m glad to see the results are as positive as they are (for the road removal). I’m still not convinced of the overall design, but they seem to have recieved enough feedback on that front to perhaps make changes (protection from the elements, mainly)

  2. Disappointing to see only 6% calling for better bike parking. Hopefully that will be enough to prompt some improvements. Secure and convenient bike parking is likely to be required as well as traffic free infrastructure. Can’t simply hope for the latter without providing more of the former.

    Incidentally this is an issue at train stations.. bikes get nicked from insecure bike stands located miles away from the platform and CCTV (and people) which puts people off.. which limits the ride up catchment to walk up. Must be the same for businesses?

  3. The time for pandering to the tiny minority who oppose positive changes like this is long since over. Having consulted and getting such overwhelming support, Council should push ahead with their plans without any delay.

    1. agree. If you run a store on High Street, and your business depends on vehicle traffic, then you’ve chosen to locate in the wrong location. Times change, move with it.

        1. exactly – imagine all the hat makers that used to be on Queen street in the 1920’s that went out of business as people stopped wearing hats all the time.
          Things change and the surrounding environment also changes. If your business does not suit an area, move to your target market.
          Historical ties are a factor in a business, and should have some influence – but not a large overwhelming factor against growing changes supported by strong public support

        2. Are we able to get a list of these business that are so stuck in the past?
          Are they identifiable via the feedback process ?

  4. I dream of a pedestrianised CBD. It is fantastic to see that the council is moving in that direction. I am not a big buyer of things but I don’t see how having people walking from the train station is worse than clogging up areas with low value carparks. Better bike parking too please, elsewise we pedallers may be inclined to tie our machines to inconvenient objects!

  5. I walk through here frequently and the only vehicles using the crossing are normally courier vans and delivery vehicles. Not customers.

    1. yeah I lived on Emily Place for almost a decade while I was working on Princes and O’Connell Streets. I never owned a car in the entire time I lived there and spent much of my disposable income in the surrounding area. But I always avoided High Street: The footpaths were too narrow, the space too uninviting, to stop and linger.

      Unity Books and Trade Aid was probably the two exceptions to this rule.

      The retailers that oppose these improvements, I don’t think they don’t know what’s good for them. Creating a nice city centre, which is “home” to a lot more residents, like I used to be. is the best way to increase retail activity. A nice city centre will also attract a lot more tourists to stay for longer, which will amplify the retail impacts of such a scheme.

      The future of the city centre lies not with catering for cars. Hmmm … can someone tell the NZTA before they build another Harbour Crossing?!?

      1. Yet the owners of Unity have very disappointing and backward views on this. They argue that the couriers must have 24hour unimpeded access to everywhere. This is quite odd as it is quite different from the ‘driving amenity is vital for my customers’. It’s all about trying to accommodate an inefficient supply chain! Good grief how do they think shops in cities elsewhere operate? They operate by prioritising delivery at certain times, and giving the public realm entirely over to that more important part of the transaction- the customers- at others. I would have hoped these people would have more of a sense of how better bigger cities operate and how to build a urban-focussed niche in the changing Auckland. A shame as they are the last bookshop in the city; that they have the market to themselves shouldn’t be an excuse to take every customer for granted; especially one who orders books through them over Amazon out of loyalty and enthusiasm to have them stay….

        That they were willing to have a grumpy rant at a regular customer [and in fact generator of some of their product] about the importance of couriers shows an extraordinarily odd set of priorities that seems to bedevil retailing in Auckland….

        1. disappointing – oh well, I won’t make such an effort to visit Unity Books with my visitors in the future!

  6. That photo looks hideous. They are taking away a road and creating an unutilised over-engineered costly space.

    I would support this move if it created something additional like a good playground for instance.

      1. When I first started becoming involved in transport advocacy in Auckland, I realised this place really was a symbol of the old-school transport attitudes: EVERY. PLACE. MUST. HAVE. A. ROAD.

        They probably felt they were being gentle by only having one lane of traffic rather than two-way.

    1. Children would love running, climbing and exploring that space. Just because it doesn’t have a standard issue plastic slide and swing set doesn’t mean children won’t love playing there.

  7. By all of Auckland you mean a dozen downtown streets? if they want easy parking nearby there are thirty malls around Auckland for them. They don’t get to ruin the city centre for the other 1. 5m ratepayers just because they were there first

  8. “In total they received 337 pieces of feedback”
    I’m not au fait with statistical analysis so does 300 odd ‘pieces of feedback’ count as a definitive response? If so then surely the Downtown Port will be moving soon too then? And our next Big Parade will be down Queen St, not Victoria Park.
    I’d also be interested in seeing where these survey responses came from – how many were filled out online and how many were completed ‘old school’ ie filling out a paper form? How people complete a survey doesn’t really matter, unless the results are skewed. It would be interesting if we could track how people found the online link. Did they search it out themselves or were they directed there via links supplied by CCA or Transportblog?
    I ask this because the results do seem skewed towards the positions of CCA and Transportblog members, and I wonder if the results really match how most ratepayers feel about the issue (granted that it probably doesn’t rank highly on their radar anyway). I wonder if readers would accept the opposite result if it came to light that local retailers had encouraged their clients to support the status quo?
    To be clear: I have no problem with any ‘side’ of any issue lobbying the populace to support their platform – it’s what a democracy is – so this result doesn’t concern me greatly.
    Personally I’m in favour of shutting the one way lane between High St and O’Connell St to make the plaza even safer for pedestrians. It’s a nice area and seems popular on sunny days. What I’m less in favour of is spending all that ratepayer money on ‘improvements’. I’m skeptical that we’ll get the expected bang for our buck – is the current plaza layout deterring that many people from using the space?
    Surely we should be following the NYC/Manhattan example and just close off the lane with some planter boxes and then see how it works? Do a 12-24 month trial first, before committing millions of dollars to major changes. I’m old enough to remember all the money spent on converting Onehunga’s main street into a pedestrian mall, only to have more money spent a decade later converting it back to a vehicular street. You might find retailers withdraw their objections after the trial, when they see the sky does not fall in once the lane is closed to vehicles.
    I’m also old enough to remember that the ground floor of the Ellen Melville Hall was initially community space, then a restaurant/bar, then a hamburger/bar, then a children’s clothing store, and then… well, now it’s going to be community space again. Hopefully it will be better utilised as community space this time around than it was in it’s previous iteration.

    1. Nick it is funded from the inner city targeted rate; these city upgrades are not like general Council spending out in the ‘burbs.

      And there is certainly much more chance that the hall will function better as a public space with its ground floor and the square not being bisected by moving traffic.

      Anyone who wants to keep that vehicle right of way may be thinking all sorts of things but they can’t possibly include the effective functioning of this public asset.

      1. Good to know re the targetted rate – my ratepaying heart jumps every time I see an announcement that we are getting some great new streetscape, since it all seems to cost $10m a pop these days.
        As I hope I made clear: I’m in favour of removing that vehicle lane and making the area one complete pedestrian plaza. Having visited NYC 3 times in the last 5 years I’m a big fan of their method of implementing change via ‘trial programmes’ first (and then permanence later) as seen in that July talk/video Transportblog posted previously (sorry, I forget her name and I can’t find it via search).

    2. Survey was completed on-line. Entry is via membership/subscription to a voluntary AT/AC feedback group. I was one of the submitters.

  9. Do these shops honestly believe that their business comes from cars on High Street. I don’t like shared spaces cars slow the peds.

    I as Queen of my own imagination designate Queen Street SW1 (Superwalkway one) and propose increased walking lanes, less traffic lights, less slow cars and more squares (I assume squares are a walkway engineers roundabout. This is a walkway of nation significants. I know this works because I did it in Cities Skylines

  10. What can the retailers actually do to stop this though? The only legitimate grounds to oppose appear to be from disruption to business during construction works. But you cant really stop a project for that because nothing could actually get built!

    Because the works are within the street corridor and they aren’t changing the use of public space its unlikely the works would need any kind of resource consent (except for construction activities e.g. earthworks) where concerns around parking, vehicle flow etc could even be considered.

    Instead of endless consultation and/ or mediation, why doesnt Council just call their bluff get on with the works. If they challenge it through the courts so be it, from where I am sitting I can’t see how the courts could stop this going ahead at this point.

    1. “Instead of endless consultation and/ or mediation, why doesnt Council just call their bluff get on with the works. If they challenge it through the courts so be it, from where I am sitting I can’t see how the courts could stop this going ahead at this point.”

      You don’t work for Ports of Auckland, by any chance do you?

  11. Removal of Freyberg place seems the get the thumbs up but what about the design of the space itself ? Does the design proposal outside of street closure add anything to the space, the city or design culture in NZ? No. Will it put Auckland on the map as a centre for design excellence, No. Is it possible to review the design outside of the closure of Freyberg place ? Don’t know. There are a few architects around that part of town not happy with the design…….. Will there be any public discussion ?

    1. I don’t understand why Matt gave this post that title; the consultation is all about upgrading Freyberg square and the Hall, the closing of the silly little vehicle route through there is an important but minor part of the whole.

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