Auckland’s City Centre Masterplan of 2012 was a visionary plan to help reshape the city into a more people friendly area. Many of the things it proposed have been or are in the process of being delivered. One of the more exciting proposals in it was creating a green link between the Domain and Wynyard Quarter, connecting Albert and Victoria Parks along the way.
The key central section between Albert Park and Victoria Park would be achieved by creating a linear park along Victoria St. More public space in the city centre will be crucial for both visitors and the rapidly growing residential population – the fastest growing area in the country. Note: The city centre population has grown so fast that at about 57,000 people, it has already well exceeded the 2032 expectation in the CCMP of 45,000
The opportunity to build the Linear Park was almost lost a few years ago after Auckland Transport ignored the CCMP as well as their strategic plans and business cases by proposing to use Victoria St to funnel buses through the city, an option that had a negative benefit cost ratio. Thankfully following public feedback they eventually gave up on the idea.
Despite the name, the Linear Park isn’t just about pretty pictures or providing a green space in the middle of the city as in some places it won’t look like a park at all. That’s because it will also be serving some crucial functions. In particular it will be needed to help distribute the thousands of people every hour who will pour out of the Aotea Station being built as part of the City Rail Link.
The station entrance on Victoria St will be within the Linear Park space and modelling has suggested it could see over 5,500 people an hour at peak times – although given the CRL will now cater for longer trains, that could be even higher.
Further away from the CRL entrance there’s likely to be a greater ability to have more green space included in the design.
More recently, and part of the refresh of the CCMP, the Linear Park will play a crucial role in the Access for Everyone proposal that intends to make the city centre much more pedestrian friendly.
So why are we talking about this, yesterday we finally heard a little news about the project.
The Victoria Street Linear Park is one step closer with the awarding of the contract for the development of the business case. The contract has been awarded to Jacobs New Zealand Ltd who will also work on the conceptual design.
The Linear Park will create a pedestrian friendly link between Victoria Park and Albert Park.
“It’s good to be one step closer to creating a great space for people in the middle of our city. If you look at other linear parks around the world, including the world-famous High Line in New York, you can see how they transform cities,” said Mayor Goff.
“The project is still some years off completion, but the business case and conceptual design begin what we need to do to bring this project to fruition.
“Aotea Station will be the busiest passenger station in Auckland once the City Rail Link opens. Having an attractive, people friendly link going down Victoria Street at the station entrance will make a huge and positive difference to people using our city centre.”
Chair of Planning Committee Councillor Chris Darby said, “The thin green line of the park pierces the densest and busiest neighbourhoods in Auckland. It significantly increases the amount of green public space through the midtown area, where a significant deficit in open space exists.
“The linear park dramatically improves connectivity for pedestrians and cyclists reaching the city-centre and universities, with potential to extend to Parnell via the rediscovered Albert Park tunnels.”
Deputy Chair of Planning Committee Councillor Richard Hills said, “It’s fantastic to see this crucial milestone on our green link through the city centre. It will connect our parks and eventually connect pedestrians and cyclists with the walking and cycling route over the harbour bridge.”
It’s a bit hard to get too excited about a business case contract being awarded for a project that a) shouldn’t need one and b) is many years away from being implemented, but it is good to finally see some progress on the project. One thing I do hope we will see is ways to start putting parts of the Linear Park in using temporary placemaking tools so we don’t have to wait for the whole project to be designed and funded before we get any progress.
Finally, as Darby mentions, one of the other interesting opportunities the Linear Park would provide is that it would link directly into the Albert Park tunnels which we’d love to see reopened.