A paper to the Waitemata Local Board meeting today raises serious concerns that Auckland Transport continue to undermine every strategy the city has in order to prioritise car parking.
The site in question is 2 Pompallier Terrace in Ponsonby, an AT owned 1330m2 site which currently has 41 carparks and public toilets. The site had been identified as part of the council’s policy of targeting land it owns that is underperforming and aims to use it to “to improve levels of service to the community, while delivering on strategic outcomes such as urban regeneration without impacting on rates“. In the case of AT land, they are also hoping to use the net proceeds to reinvest in transport priorities.
The owner of the surrounding sites (Urban Collective) is looking to build a mixed-use development on their land and as part of that they want to use that carpark create a public plaza that is incorporated with their development. The sites in question are shown below with the AT owned carpark in blue and the Urban Collective land in red.
The report says that Eke Panuku Development Auckland have been working with the developer “to enable value from the site to be unlocked, while still maintaining ownership of the existing facilities and achieving better urban design outcomes for the community“.
A plaza catching the evening sun and with hospitality spilling out on to it sounds like great addition and would help in achieving that. They also say the plaza will include publicly accessible pedestrian connection to Pompallier Terrace, Ponsonby Road and Cowen Street, and that the developer has agreed to “register a covenant on the title to ensure that the plaza remains physically open to the public into the future“.
That all sounds great but the thing that stands out to me is that it appears that AT will only let the site be turned into a plaza if they get at least 43 underground carparks as part of the deal, slightly more than they currently have.
AT requires that any transfer and development of 2 Pompallier Terrace be subject to the following conditions:
i) A minimum of 43 public car carks must be delivered to Auckland Transport’s requirements as part of any future development of the Property;
ii) The Public Car Parks must remain in Auckland Council ownership and under Auckland Transport’s management pursuant to the Auckland Council’s Off-Street Parking Delegations – June 2015;
iii) The Public Car Parks must be easily accessible and identifiable as public parking; and
iv) Auckland Transport’s car park designation is to be altered or retained to protect the Public Car Parks.
It does seem the developer is willing to meet those conditions though I would also hope there was something included in the requirements so that the street frontage of the plaza isn’t just taken up by a large carpark entrance.
To be clear, my concern is not that the developer wants to provide parking as part of their development but that AT have required it. That land is incredibly valuable and those underground carparks won’t be cheap to build. It makes me wonder what else could have been achieved if the value of that work, potentially $millions worth, was invested in other public realm upgrades in the area? By putting such a requirement in place we lose the opportunity to have that discussion.
This all sounds very similar to what AT did at Takapuna where they required Eke Panuku to build them a multi-story carpark (Toka Puia) in order for Eke Panuku to be able to develop the Anzac St carpark site. Also notable about Toka Puia is that despite being completed, AT still haven’t closed the Anzac St site and are pricing it undercut other nearby carparks.
This carpark is like Toka Puia in another way too, it has really poor financial performance. The paper notes:
AT has confirmed that a basement car park will increase OPEX costs. This extra cost has been accepted as the current income generated from the car park is forecast to exceed future costs. Currently the budget for 2 Pompallier Terrace is $4K per annum, which is likely to increase to somewhere between $10-$30K. The current income is $36K and opportunities to increase revenue will be investigated as the proposed development progresses.
With revenue of only around $36k per annum that carpark represents a terrible return on the site and suggests each carpark is only generating about $2.40 per day. To put that in perspective, current prices are $1 per hour and hour for the first two hours then $4 per hour after that. That suggests either the carpark is being poorly managed by AT or it’s barely being used and therefore not all that valuable.
With the developer on board it appears officials are patting themselves on the back but it seems the question they haven’t asked themselves is:
How does this outcome help encourage mode shift and the reduction of driving that Auckland Council, Auckland Transport and government policies all say that we need in order to reduce congestion and emissions?
Speaking of emissions and climate change, the papers climate impact statement says:
- Utilising best practice universal design, the plaza will demonstrate climate mitigation and adaptation measures, with consideration given to the use of sustainable materials, waste reduction, water conservation and the creation of a suitable microclimate by addressing solar access, shade, and wind.
- The new basement public car park will be flexible enough to allow for future changes or reconfiguration to suit changing transport preferences. This includes but is not limited to the ability to swap car parks for bike facilities, addition of EV infrastructure and support ride share initiatives as required.
I wonder how all the emissions from building the structure as well as all of the vehicles that will use it would weight up compared to the “climate mitigation and adaptation measures” incorporated into the plaza.
Finally, if keeping this carpark is so important to AT, why didn’t they and the local board use it as an opportunity to achieve other outcomes. For example, discussing with the community that if this currently underperforming carpark is to be retained, a similar amount of on-street parking on Ponsonby Rd will need to be removed to make way for cycleways.
While this particular issue may seem small, if the council is ever to realise their vision for Tamaki Makaurau then at some point they’re going to have stop letting ATs parking tail wag the strategy dog.