Discussion around the sale of the Downtown Carpark has been heating up again lately, and it likely all comes to a head tomorrow when Council will effectively decide on whether to sell it or not.
The previous council’s Finance and Performance Committee approved starting the sale process back in December 2020, in large part due to the impact COVID had on council’s finances. Though that’s not the only reason, as the structure also needs– likely expensive – seismic strengthening at some point.
The parking building is massive, covering around 6,250m² and holding around 1944 carparks, making it the biggest single example in the city. Redevelopment of the site – and the surrounding area, such as removing the Hobson St Flyover – has been on a number of council plans for over a decade. The current City Centre Masterplan says:
The western half of this downtown west precinct retains the potential to unlock significant additional benefits in the future.
Transformation of this sub-precinct remains key to integrating the city centre downtown core with the Viaduct Harbour and Wynyard Quarter waterfront neighbourhoods to the west.
In particular, the eventual removal of the Lower Hobson Street Flyover, and long-term aspiration to redevelop the Auckland Council-owned downtown car park site, have the collective potential to add:
- greater intensity
- higher value
- more active uses
- a more engaging and connected public realm that delivers the unrealised place potential in this prime location.
Last year, Precinct Properties were confirmed as the preferred development partner for the site, and last week we got a glimpse of what they’re proposing for the site.
Twin towers and a laneway weaving its way from Britomart to the Viaduct are proposed if Auckland councillors agree to sell the Downtown carpark building to Precinct Properties.
Central to Precinct’s plans are two slim skyscrapers nearly 40 storeys high towering above the M Social hotel on Quay St that will have a mix of office space and apartments with spectacular views of the Waitematā Harbour and the Hauraki Gulf.
At ground level, the laneway through Commercial Bay from Te Komititanga Square will be extended across lower Albert St, weaving between Aon House and HSBC Tower before passing the two new towers to Lower Hobson St. There are also plans for a park on part of Sturdee St.
Comments in the pack show Precinct Properties is keen to remove the Hobson St flyover to open up and refurbish lower Hobson St, saying that keeping the flyover will prevent access to the Viaduct, reduce the visibility of a podium development and compromise the overall quality of the project.
In order to sell, the Council are being asked drop some of their initial requirements for selling the Downtown Carpark. Stuff’s Todd Niall Reports:
The proposed sale of Auckland Council’s big Downtown Carpark Building could be clinched this week with the council to decide whether to drop two of its requirements from the private redevelopment of the site.
Councillors on Thursday may waive the condition that Precinct Properties include a big cycle and scooter “hub”, and the demolition of the adjacent Lower Hobson Street flyover might be removed from the deal.
Those two aspects appear to be the last hurdles to completion of confidential negotiations with Precinct, which in September 2022 became the council’s preferred buyer and developer of the prime site.
Officials said the “transport outcomes” required by the council had been materially achieved in negotiations with Precinct, except the hub and the flyover, which would have had to make way for buses.
A report to Thursday’s council meeting, said these items had been secured at the “council’s discretion”, which suggested there could be a cost that would have to be agreed to.
The board of Auckland Transport, which runs the carpark, decided behind closed doors in September that the “hub” offered poor value for money – it had unofficially been reported as a $28 million feature.
The cost of the remaining “discretionary” requirements are recommended to become part of the council’s deliberations on it’s 10 year budget, effectively putting them in competition with other spending needs.
The deal with Precinct is reported to be otherwise ready for completion, with the board of council development agency Eke Panuku having approved the final terms and conditions.
Other initial requirements, like the idea of putting a bus interchange in the middle of the development and retaining some parking, have been dropped over time. So now these last two items are essentially a “if you want them, then you have to pay for them” situation. Effectively, keeping them in would mean the council gets less money from the sale – and the question being put to Councillors now is whether those outcomes are the most immediate pressing needs for that money.
It’s shame that information about the development had to be leaked rather than be publicly available, because what’s being proposed looks fantastic. Furthermore, given Precinct’s record with the likes of Commercial Bay there’s no reason to doubt this will be a fantastic addition to the city – and one that only a few years after it’s complete, people will wonder why this whole debate even happened.
Trying to stand in the way of the sale and a massive development in the city centre are the Chief Executive of the organisation whose job it is to promote the city centre, Viv Beck, and one of the key donors to her failed mayoral campaign, Andrew Krukziener. Both are claiming that removing parking will kill businesses in the area and both have a history of claiming that it must be made easier to drive to and through the city.
In a Herald op-ed a few days ago, Beck opposed improvements for buses and pedestrians while also saying that because these alternatives aren’t good enough, we need to accommodate people driving. Then there’s this phrase from the end of her piece, effectively describing PT and active mode users as elites, while it’s drivers who are poor and long-suffering.
our city needs to meet the needs of a variety of users – not just those fortunate enough to be able to get around by public transport, bike and walking
Notably, both Beck and Krukziener were also behind the attempt to stop improvements to Queen St. Their protestations and negativity about the city, both then and now, are likely doing more harm to city businesses than these plans for major investment are.
Councillors should approve the sale.