To most Aucklanders, 2018 looks a lot like 2017.

House prices have been flat, or have gone down a tiny bit, depending on what data you look at. Rents keep going up. Auckland is still growing, still congested, and still has sub-par public transport.

But there’s some good stuff happening on that front. The New Network is complete, the City Rail Link is coming along, the Eastern Busway is tantalisingly close to starting, and light rail shouldn’t be too far behind.

At the end of 2017, Auckland had more construction underway than ever before. Cranes were up across the city, and site fencing and signage could be seen in every neighbourhood. The flip side is that there aren’t enough workers or materials, and construction has dragged on and on. I’ve been following this for years in the RCG Development Tracker, and almost every project in Auckland is running behind its original schedule.

That said, there certainly are a whole heap of projects! That includes big projects by Housing New Zealand and other government entities – rolling out in Tamaki, Northcote, Papakura, Mangere and Mt Roskill. It’s early days, but these suburbs will grow by thousands of homes in the future.

The Sofitel So Auckland – originally planned to open in 2015, now opening in November 2018 (apparently)

Just a few years ago, Auckland construction was in the doldrums with the GFC and Canterbury earthquakes pulling resources away. Then it (re)grew rapidly over 2013-2017. 2018 has been flatter, but the trend is still positive.

Overall, the construction industry is building more actual stuff than it ever has before – homes, offices, warehouses, you name it.

As mentioned in February, new homes are increasingly being built in more central areas. 51% of building consents in 2017 were for apartments, terraces and other ‘attached’ housing. That trend has carried on into 2018, and Auckland home consents are now running at record levels – 12,959 in the year to August 2018, with 53% of them ‘attached’ homes.

Almost all consents eventually turn into homes, but it does take time. Consents have topped 10,000 a year for the last three years running, but only 8,000 homes were finished in 2017. My guess is that 10,000 new homes will be completed and ready to occupy in 2018, the highest total for more than a decade. It’s not enough, but it’s a start.

The Citizen apartments, developed by Urban Collective (image: Patrick Reynolds)

Also good: despite builders being very busy, there are still some great projects starting. The University of Auckland is underway with new halls of residence and engineering and medical buildings; I’ve talked about the spate of new hotels already; a few more apartment buildings have started, and – hold on to your hats, folks – we’re getting some new shops too.

Westfield Newmarket, opening in late 2019.

So far in 2018, major expansions at Westfield Newmarket and Sylvia Park have officially started. Smaller expansions are underway at Botany Town Centre and Milford Centre. In the heart of the city, Commercial Bay is well underway. H&M is open already, and at 3,500 square metres it’s as big as a department store. However, I feel it’s my duty to warn other shoppers that it can be a bit of a wait for the bathroom. In fact, you’ll have to wait a whole year until the rest of the centre is open.

Anyway, toilet issues aside, Commercial Bay is right next to Britomart, and will bring together thousands of office workers as well as a major retail offering. Queen St is the top shopping destination in the country, so we can expect big things from Commercial Bay.

The Silverdale Mall opened in March, including a Farmers store and 30-odd smaller stores. By itself, it’s only a fraction of the size of the centres above, but it adds to what is already quite a cluster of shopping at Silverdale. Onwards and upwards for the City of Sales.

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  1. The 47% of homes still being built as standalone houses represent a far higher proportion of the land being developed, the roads being added, the new infrastructure required when we need to be concentrating on maintaining and upgrading what we’ve got.

    The direction’s good; the numbers are worrying. And there are no surprises – the AUP and the RLTP allow for way too much greenfields standalones supported by car infrastructure. If we’re going to do greenfields, it needs to be high density, transit-oriented, with next to no car access.

  2. I still think they need to move ferry services to the other side of Queen’s wharf and create an artificial beach between Queens and Prince’s wharves.

    How marvellous would it be in summer to descend from your office block to grab some rays and eat your lunch on a beach?

    1. Very. But how about keeping the ferries where they are and making some sort of artificial beach on the other side of Queen’s Wharf? The current seating where you can watch the ferries is very nice as it is.

  3. I disagree with the comment that Queen St is the top shopping destination in the country, far from it. It probably should be and might be one day…but it’s a long long way off yet. Although it’s great to have it back in the city, the Farmers store is very small, as is the Whitcoulls, there are many major store types and brands missing (gift stores are particularly lacking, but also a wider range of shoe and clothing brands), there are quite a few empty shops both on Queen St itself and in the many arcades and side streets, and too many non-descript ‘junky’ shops and fast food outlets. The street itself is overcrowded and very dirty – what is with the chewing gum plastered all over Auckland CBD footpaths, and don’t get me started on cigarette butts and rubbish bins that don’t get emptied often enough. The growing number of street people, while legitimately allowed to be there and beg, don’t exactly add to the overall atmosphere. Many of the awnings where they exist leak like sieves – on rainy days especially I often wonder what tourists must be thinking! And there’s nowhere near enough public space to sit in the sun (when it’s out!) and enjoy some peace and quiet away from stinky noisy traffic (and people for that matter!) while you eat your lunch, bought or BYO. Very much a work in progress.

    1. Definitely still a work in progress – bring on pedestrianisation! But Queen St has the highest retail rents in the country, and the highest foot traffic, so it even beats the malls in those respects. It’d be nice to have a huge department store like the Australian city centres, but we do have Smith & Caugheys as well as Farmers!

    2. I’m wondering if Queen St is just typical of the main street of many cities – too expensive for the unique, local, interesting retail, and spurned a bit also by some of the less interesting bland chain stores that base their business model on cheaper land with lots of carparking. Whereas the nearby streets are slightly cheaper, and as more attractive streetscapes are introduced, have more interesting retail and business offerings.

      People like malls, they say, because of the car-free environment inside them. But more and more people don’t want to be part of the carmaggedon to get there in the first place. I’d go to Queen St to shop before I’d go to a mall, but I also think the area will improve rapidly once the cars are excluded.

  4. If the Sofitel is open for business in November I’ll eat my hat. Just walking past and the ground floor isn’t complete, scaffold is still up and there are rooms on the lower floors with unpainted walls. Unless they’re planning a partial opening in December (Have they taken any bookings yet?) I doubt they’ll open until the new year.

    To top it all off the most charitable description of its facade would be ‘bland’. A complete disaster from start to finish (But at least it looks like they will finish!)

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