Earlier this year work on the downtown area of the city centre was finally completed after three years of work. The work has included strengthening the sea wall, rebuilding Quay St into a more people friendly space, the new Te Wananga public space, the new ferry terminal berths, Te Komititanga and the refurbished chief post office building, the downtown bus interchange. There’s also been private development with Commercial Bay. In addition, recently we’ve seen the completion of the Karangahape Rd upgrade to improve the southern end of the city centre.
Now the council’s focus in the city is shifting to the midtown area which will tie in and complement the new Aotea Station being delivered as part of the City Rail Link.
When it opens, the Aotea Station will be New Zealand’s busiest with more people entering or exiting than any other.
It is a key component of the transit oriented development outlined as Transformational Move 5 in the City Centre Masterplan, which was widely consulted and unanimously agreed by Auckland Council in 2020. It is a key part of the renaissance of midtown.
Today Auckland Council and Auckland Transport unveil their midtown programme, describing the area as: ‘a part of Auckland where our history, art and culture can be seen and heard and will spill out into public life; where people choose to spend time and socialise; a place that is attractive and feels inclusive and safe.’
Midtown is the area that radiates from Aotea Square, taking in landmarks like the historic Auckland Town Hall, Civic Theatre, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki and SkyTower, two universities, the intimate laneway network including Federal, Elliott, High and Lorne Streets, and treasured city parks – Myers Park and Rangipuke Albert Park.
It is at the heart of a significant shift in the way people travel into, out of, and through the city and its regeneration is expected to be a catalyst for growth, productivity, a healthier and more sustainable city centre and a vibrant arts and cultural heart of Auckland.
These are the projects listed today by Auckland Council and Auckland Transport to help regenerate Auckland’s midtown in preparation for the thousands of people who will arrive there by train and bus every day.
- CRL Aotea Station – the stations’ threshold designs, woven with narratives from mana whenua, won a World Architecture Festival WAFX cultural identity award in 2019.
- Stage 1 of the Wellesley Street bus improvements project (Albert Street to Queen Street) – an upgraded environment for bus users and pedestrians
- Stage 1 of Te Hā Noa – Victoria Street Linear Park (Albert Street to Kitchener Street)
- Federal Street upgrade, extension of the shared path laneway circuit
- Wai Horotiu Queen Street Project
- Myers Park underpass upgrade
- Aotea over station development by MRCB, enabled by Eke Panuku
- High Street upgrade
- Hobson Street upgrade (Victoria Street to Wellesley Street)
- Aotea Centre refurbishment
- Completion of the Albert Street upgrade between Wyndham St and Wellesley St
Excluding Aotea Station itself, the over station development and Watercare’s wastewater upgrade, Auckland Council is investing more than $133million into midtown in the next five years.
Many of these projects have been discussed in some way or another for probably the last decade so it’s great to finally see some funding and commitment being put towards to delivering them. I assume a decent chunk of that cost is also coming from the City Centre Targeted rate paid by businesses and residents.
It seems that the council have grown fond of the bundling all these projects into a single overarching programme for delivery and it sounds like a positive step instead of the more piecemeal street by street approach. I understand as part of this they’ve just repointed most of the teams who were behind the downtown programme to this midtown one.
As for the projects above, the one I’m perhaps most interested in is the Victoria St Linear Park. We’re only getting the part from Albert St to Kitchener St to begin with but that will be important for helping deal with pedestrian volumes from the City Rail Link but also for setting the tone for the eventual extension down to Victoria Park. It’s also a project we’ve fought hard to keep in the plans.
The project we probably know the least about is the upgrade of Hobson St from Victoria St to Wellesley. The CCMP calls for it as part of turning both Hobson St and Nelson St into “more liveable, green twin avenues befitting their urban context within what amounts to New Zealand’s densest residential neighbourhood“.
It also suggests this would be achieved by:
- reducing the number of vehicle lanes and turning movements at intersections
- possibly changing them back to two-way streets
- wider footpaths and pedestrian priority at intersections as well as mid-block crossings
- more cycleways, including on Hobson St
- more street trees
It would also be helpful for that section to close off the ramps to Skycity’s car park.
Perhaps the key things missing from this announcement, as well as the Queen St details released last week, is the commitment to deliver other parts of the City Centre Masterplan at the same time. In particular the Zero Emissions Area for the Queen St Valley and Access for Everyone. These are critical parts of the plan to improve air quality, reduce private vehicle trips and make the city centre more people friendly. These things need to be being discussed at every step to raise public awareness that they’re needed, coming and to help ensure they don’t get excluded by project teams as ‘someone else’s job to deliver’.
As designs for these projects form up It would also be great to see a much greater focus on delivering more street trees in the city.
Once completed the core parts of the city centre are going to be looking pretty good and a massive improvement over what they have been/are now. I wonder where else in the city centre and across the region the council could take this larger programme approach to improvements.