This is a guest post from Alistair Ray, an urban designer at Jasmax. It was originally posted on the Urban Design Forum’s blog and has been reposted here with permission.
Massive mixed use regeneration proposed for prime waterfront land half way between the city and the airport
Quiz time. Guess which part of the city is being referred to:
- Almost exactly half-way between the airport and the CBD – less than 10km to each.
- Largely flat, or gently sloping, bounded on its southern edge by water, with several kilometres of water frontage (admittedly the water is to the south, but still, any views over water are now regarded as good from a real estate perspective).
- An important part of the city’s historic fabric, with part of the site the location for what was once the city’s busiest port and working waterfront.
- Well served by rapid (non-road based) transit.
- Also well connected by road, sitting right next to the city’s motorway network, including one of the city’s major water crossings.
- Over 100 hectares of relatively low density employment (industrial, service and distribution) that does not really need to be next to the water, or utilises the rapid transit.
Can you guess where it is yet?
Given the above characteristics, it is perhaps no surprise that the area has been the subject of some major strategic planning exercises, and also no surprise that the conclusion is that the land is perfectly suited to a massive mixed use urban regeneration project! What? Are we making this up?
The project is described as follows:
- Much of the site will be transformed to deliver a vibrant, mixed-use community that pays homage to the site’s historic past.
- At its heart, it will include 2.5 kilometres of dedicated riverfront, with a mix of parkland and community space. These spaces will complement the combination of residential, retail and commercial opportunities on site.
- Over the next 20 years, approximately 15,000 residents are set to call this place home. The precinct will also be the employment location for around 10,000 in retail precincts and office parks.
- Development will be based on principles of excellence in urban design and architecture, best-practice environmentally-sustainable design and transit-oriented development.
- It will be designed to deliver an urban environment that promotes a healthy and safe lifestyle with high levels of pedestrian and bicycle access, integrated open space and parklands, and public and civic spaces
Now, how many of you thought I was talking about the land at Onehunga foreshore east of SH20, facing Mangere Inlet? How many are now confused by the regeneration work I described above?
Well the piece of land I was talking about is not in Auckland…sorry. It’s actually known as Northshore Hamilton, just 6km northeast of Brisbane’s CBD. But the similarities are truly remarkable. All of those characteristics described above could be accurately applied to either site.
BUT…the similarities stop when you consider what is being proposed for each site.
Northshore Hamilton is Brisbane’s largest urban renewal precinct. The land is currently being transformed from relatively low density industrial uses to one of Brisbane’s new mixed use, high density suburbs, with two CityCat terminals offering express transport to the CBD in under 30 minutes, as well as major bus routes to and from the CBD and the airport. The site also includes Brisbane’s international cruise ship terminal, which is being incorporated as a major part of the regeneration project. Additional industrial areas to the north will remain, with the regeneration project focussing on land adjacent to the water where it is recognised it could serve the city better.
You can find more details on their website, whilst the images below show the degree of proposed transformation.
So what of Auckland’s equivalent piece of land? It too has been the subject of major strategic planning work over the years, which has recently reached a conclusion. An opportunity for mixed use regeneration? More intensive use of the land? Parks and recreational routes?
No, a motorway corridor!
Given the land’s strategic positioning between two of Auckland’s most popular motorways, the abundance of land in Auckland for building stand-alone houses elsewhere, and the copious amounts of water views, it is perhaps right that we have concluded that there is no better use of this waterfront land than a motorway link between SH20 and SH1. It could be one of New Zealand’s most iconic sections of motorway, with uninterrupted views over the water as people sit in their cars, and mainly trucks, rattling along at 15 kph in the ramp-signals queue trying to avoid jams on either of the other two motorways.
And to cap it off, we can provide a walkway / cycleway nicely sandwiched between the motorway extension and the water, to help provide much needed walking and cycle connections for anyone willing to enter this corridor with its beautiful outlook and air quality. There might even be bridges or tunnels to connect back to the highly activated and busy industrial areas to the north of the motorway. Indeed in 10 years’ time when completed, it could be nominated for numerous urban design awards, especially if we use pretty koru patterns in the concrete and the cycle way is painted in a very vivid colour.
Of course I’m being sarcastic (at least I hope you picked that up)!
Yes I know that development economics and the scale of urban projects is different in Australia. But given this piece of lands’ strategic qualities, are we really getting the best possible outcomes for Auckland? Or are we simply reacting to pressure from small interest lobby groups?