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Symphony and Watts Group open 1st of Parc units

Total $55 million development will have more than 120 units

Symphony Group Ltd bought the New City Markets site in the middle of the Viaduct Basin redevelopment area in 1999 and opened the 1st 2 apartment buildings in its The Parc complex on Thursday.

The development is a $55 million joint venture between Symphony and the Watts Group Ltd, which is building it.

The Parc site is surrounded by Customs St West, Market Place & Pakenham St. The development, and Symphony director Colin Reynolds, won high praise from Auckland mayor John Banks at the opening, while Symphony’s general manager, Gary Noland, said The Parc had replaced “a blot on the landscape.”

The Parc will ultimately have 11 residential buildings containing about 120 units (including some commercial units), enclosing a 3500m² oval garden – an oasis slightly smaller than a rugby field in the heart of the Viaduct.

Residents will move into the 1st 2 blocks facing Market Place in August and 7 more of the blocks are under construction. The final 2 blocks, Solo and Lumina, will close off the development on the Pakenham St side.

Mr Noland said the project got away from the traditional long corridors associated with apartment developments and there was nothing to compare it with.

The mayor, in full flight, told the opening gathering: “I’m here today principally because I admire Colin Reynolds. I think he’s 1 of the good guys. I wanted to come here today to say to Craig Watts, ‘You’re a very good builder, Craig.'”

Mr Banks said council purchase of nearby Viaduct land, which would not be developed, would add significantly to the value of The Parc’s apartments.

“I love this place – I train across the street in the gym. This substantially adds to the heart & soul of Auckland City,” he said.

“There’s a lot of architectural vandalism taking place in this city – some of the rudest development you can see in the world, (but) I think these are brilliant.

“This is a great part of town. We are blessed by people in this area who want to do it right, and they will benefit in the long run by not taking the short cuts.”

The 1st stage of The Parc comprises 6 buildings containing 51 units, of which only 5 remained unsold last week (the last of the Customs St West units, with a view to the Viaduct Basin, was sold for more than $1 million the day before the opening. Those units are under construction now, next to the office of Oceania & Eastern Ltd.)

Apartments in those buildings range from $557,000 for 137.6m² to $1.8 million for 349.3m².

19 units in the 2nd stage were released a fortnight ago, and 7 of the 9 commercial units on Market Place had sold.

Also just released is the Solo Apartments building, which Mr Noland described as a modern alternative to the traditional Parc residences, including in-wall beds and with the ability to be used as commercial premises. These studio apartments have been priced from $235-295,000, and 9 of the 34 have been sold. (The Kellands Real Estate website for Solo gives all prices, unit sizes and prices/m² net & gross).

The 14 apartments in the Lumina block will also be 2-3 bedrooms, with internal areas of 120-145m²and prices in a range of $745-929,000.

Websites: The Parc
Symphony Group
Watts Group
Solo Apartments
Lumina Apartments

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Britomart still expensive

Redesign “still $200 million job”

Redesigning Britomart could cost just as much as the original grand version, Auckland City councillors were told at a workshop today.

One difference is that, whereas the city was shouldering the cost of an underground transport centre in the previous version and private developers were to make what they could by developing the site above ground, this time round the city council hopes to cut its outlay by getting money from Transfund NZ and Infrastructure Auckland.

“It is still likely to be a $200 million project. It will, however, be different,” strategic developments director Wayne Donnelly (pictured right) told councillors at the open workshop.

The new version is no grand plan, an interchange (probably all above ground) for passengers using buses, long-distance coaches, ferries, heavy rail (the tunnel taking that two floors down will be completed next month) and light rail (a separate council session on taking that into Queen St was run in the morning). Maybe some parking on the first floor underground.

The heritage buildings would be done up, as the previous scheme envisaged for some of them — and which the council has to get on to soon anyway, because it has a swag of downtown buildings at Britomart with their building warrants of fitness cancelled.

The grand version begun five years ago had five underground levels, parking on the bottom three, the railway entering two down and the bus terminal also below ground, which caused plenty of consternation at the Bus & Coach Association.

Above ground, the previous version had 13 development footprints, for construction of two hotels, an apartment precinct, probably three office blocks and retail space in some of the links, all to be erected over 10 years.

Under that version, the council faced a potential end liability up to $230 million if the developer wanted to return undeveloped footprints, under a standby takeout agreement. Concern at that potential liability for ratepayers was the primary stated cause for opposition to the scheme.

The old version took the council out as a developer and builder, although it was to be a partial financier and the standby arrangement would have left it effectively as a mortgagee in possession of undeveloped sites.

The council now has a working party of councillors to monitor progress on the new project, with council staff working first on the reports they have prepared this month, secondly on getting a design scheme under way and thirdly on getting the results of that in and a project off the drawing board.

The council wants someone else to do the work, to the finally preferred design, but that issue was left out of the workshop discussion. David Hay, previously deputy mayor and a supporter of the previous scheme, raised the possibility of the council ending up precisely where neither the previous batch of councillors nor the present batch want to be: developing a chunk of downtown dirt, with all the consequent liability.

Said John Duthie, city planning mnager: “No.” He said the council would identify the sites that could be released for development, and ensure the neighbourhood would be kept in sympathy with the character of the waterfront.”

Mr Donnelly said the estimate was that the council would fall about $89 million short of its existing $129 million budgeted Britomart funding. The shortfall would be met by Transfund and Infrastructure Auckland paying $58 million toward the transport component and the council selling $31 million of Britomart property.

Under the previous scheme, the council was to sell the 3.2ha of land for $56 million and buy the finished transport centre for $75 million. There were also related transport costs, and Mr Donnelly said the council’s previous commitment to the transport component was $92 million.

The design competition now has to be started, with completion scheduled for November and a full design done after that.

The working party, on what is now named “the Waitemata Waterfront Development Project,” is to meet monthly and the project will go to the full council meeting in March for resolutions on various matters which could not be voted on in a workshop.

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Krukziener case over AMP consent ends

Action withdrawn fortnight after court hearing

Andrew Krukziener’s court action over the resource consent granted to AMP’s waterfront office tower has been discontinued.

Although the hearing had been held and Justice David Tompkins had reserved his decision a fortnight ago, discontinuation means the High Court case is at an end. There will be no judgment and, for AMP, work on site continues.

However, the Waterfront Protection Society’s threatened action over the consent is still on foot, although it hasn’t reached court.

AMP’s leasing of the tower remains at 64%, with a dozen prospective tenants in discussion.

AMP Asset Management’s head of property for New Zealand, Anthony Beverley, said the plaintiff in the court case, No 1 Queen Ltd, withdrew on Wednesday afternoon.

There were discussions between the parties while the lawyers were arguing in court, and Mr Beverley said tonight he “had an inkling it was coming”.

Auckland City Council’s planning fixtures sub-committee decided in May last year not to put the AMPAM tower application through the notification process.

The committee did decide that some neighbours’ approval should be sought — AMP as owner of adjoining sites, CDL as tenant in the Copthorne HarbourCity Hotel, Air New Zealand as major tenant of the Quay Tower to the rear, which was going through a rent review and kicked up a fuss. Also consulted was St Lukes/Westfield, owner and operator of the Downtown shopping centre across Albert St.

The owners of One Queen — Mr Krukziener and partners — were not consulted because that building, on the other corner of Lower Albert and Quay Sts, stands closer to the harbour and would not be affected by shadow or have its views cut, in particular.

When Mr Krukziener said in May this year he was appealing against the consent, the primary focus was the appearance of the AMP tower, which will rise 140m above Quay St and have just over 30,000m² of office space on 23 floors. Including podium, retail and parking levels it will have 31 floors.

The One Queen argument in court, presented by Mark Cooper, focused on aspects of granting resource consent which seemed, to me, removed from the key requirement: that effects will be minor and that the councillors handling the decision are satisfied written authority has been obtained from everyone who might be adversely affected.

The central word is satisfied. You can argue about how minor the effects of a 140m tower might be (and in a built-up central business district you can argue that they are minor, despite the proportions), but if the councillors are satisfied on that and by the written approvals they required, there should be no more argument.

AMPAM got resource consent in May last year, and again in August after some design changes.

Mr Beverley said removal of the uncertainty caused by the High Court judicial review would help the leasing programme, but the protection society’s action had still to be resolved.

That action was not opposed to the whole development but was aimed at having the street level redesigned.

“We’ve yet to see if they have standing. We think their case is really flawed,” Mr Beverley said.

Mr Krukziener was in meetings until early evening and has yet to explain his withdrawal.

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Downtown public drinking ban

Council pursues law & order campaign

Auckland City Council has approved the recommendation of its law & order committee to ban drinking in public places in the city centre from 9pm to 6am, from Thursday evenings to Sunday mornings. The ban is planned to come into force in late September. The ban will give police the authority to move people on, remove their alcohol or arrest them. Fines of up to $500 can be imposed.

The ban will not affect customers inside licensed bars, clubs & restaurants, or using pavement seating attached to licensed premises.

Initially, the ban will cover an area roughly bordered by Quay St, Hobson St, Karangahape Rd, Queen St, Mayoral Drive, Kitchener St, Fort St, Britomart Place and the public streets around Viaduct Harbour.

The council is also exploring the possibility, with the Viaduct Harbour owners, of extending the ban into private areas of Viaduct Harbour, and with council parks staff to see whether a ban extension would be justified for Albert Park, Pigeon Park & Symonds St Cemetery.

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Auckland City central area consent activity

Central area resource consents approved by Auckland City Council in August included these:

40 Drake St, residential additions, application by Noel Bland (Quantum Holdings Ltd, Dialogue Partners Ltd & Juno Exports Ltd).

9-11 Durham Lane, modifications to the Bluestone Store, application by University Trust.

10 Scotia Place, conversion of floors 6 & 8 from office to residential, 360 Group Ltd (Brent Thomson, also Punch Project Facilitators Ltd & 360 Unlimited Ltd).

41 Albert St, tavern in residential precinct, Mad Dogs & Englishmen (Albert Street) Ltd (Daphne Fourie).

95-99 Beaumont St/101-103 Fanshawe St, new general office building, Princewood Investments Ltd (Trans Tasman Properties Ltd).

302-322 Queen St, demolish Regent, Odeon & Westend cinemas (the St James complex) & build 239-unit building, Fox Ward Investments Ltd (Paul Doole).

19A Princes St, fitout of former synagogue, Auckland University.

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Jacobsen the new Australian arena partner

Council raises its input to $58 million

Auckland City Council has turned to a new Australian partner for its Quay Park arena project.

The council will sign a formal heads of agreement to work on plans for a 12,000-seat indoor arena with a consortium led by Sydney-based Jacobsen Venue Management Pty Ltd.

The council will increase its contribution to the capital cost of the arena from $50 million to $58 million. The consortium will contribute the balance of the estimated $68 million base cost.

Jacobsen Venue Management is part of a well-known Australian venue management company with a long track record which includes promoting & managing the Brisbane Entertainment Centre, Newcastle Entertainment Centre, Sydney Convention & Exhibition Centre and Her Majesty’s Theatre in Brisbane.

Other consortium members are Bovis Lend Lease (acting as project manager) and Mainzeal Construction Ltd of Auckland. Leading architects are Crawford Architects, whose track record includes the Minnesota Stadium, Fenway Park Masterplan (home of the Boston Red Sox) and the Perth Convention & Exhibition Centre.

The Jacobsen-led consortium was the council’s 2nd preferred proponent when it called for expressions of interest in the development & operation of the indoor arena.

They’ve been negotiating since August, when Abigroup Ltd of Sydney pulled out of exclusive negotiations.

Cllr Scott Milne, chairman of the council’s recreation & events committee, said the heads of agreement would provide for a 6-month exclusive dealings period, during which legal & business issues would be dealt with in confidence and Jacobsen will get on with the arena’s design.

The aim is an agreement to develop the arena as a public/private partnership, with Jacobsen owning & managing the arena, including taking on the operational risks.

Subject to the successful negotiation of the detail, the consortium will aim to have construction completed by the end of 2005.

Cllr Milne said Abigroup’s resource consent would continue to apply provided the new consortium design falls within its parameters.
Websites: Jacobsen Venue Management
Jacobsen Entertainment

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Forget ugly, Krukziener attack comes down to gum-beating on the RMA (oh, and chasing tenants)

Lawyer keeps speech notes from media at start of consent review

Andrew Krukziener’s highly publicised attack on Auckland City Council for granting AMP consent for its highrise waterfront tower without telling him boiled down, yesterday, not to the original issue he raised — the ugliness factor — but to the well-worn lesson in grammar, of how to read Section 94(2)(a) and (b) of the Resource Management Act.

The case came before the High Court for review yesterday, resumes today and is expected to run into Wednesday, with responses from Alan Galbraith for the council and Derek Nolan for AMP Asset Management.

Mr Krukziener’s One Queen St, the former Air New Zealand building, was chasing some of the same prospective tenants as AMP was for its proposed new tower across the foot of Albert St, so his leasing manager, Daniel Henderson, had good reason to want to know if AMP was going to get its building away.

AMP, then and since, has spent a fair bit of its time being secretive about the consent approach, including the pursuit of a non-notified order (which is cheaper and faster than having to go through the notification and hearings process). It got that order in two bites — once in May 1999 and again in August, after some plan changes.

Council staff initially told the planning fixtures sub-committee, which handles these matters, the AMP application should be notified. In due course it went through non-notified, with the approval of neighbours Quay Tower (owned by AMP NZ Office Trust), the Copthorne Hotel (on land owned by AMP Asset Management) and the council’s Downtown parking building. From the other side of Albert St, it got approval from St Lukes, owner of the Downtown shopping centre, but did not have to seek approval from No 1 Queen St Ltd.

No matter what the council staff, consultants and reports say, the decision rests with the sub-committee. The two parts of section 94(2) of the Resource Management Act say the council can whip a discretionary or non-complying activity through the process without notification (which is the preference in Auckland, not so much so in many other local bodies) if the activity for which the application is sought will be minor, and from the second part of the section, if written approval has been obtained from every person “the consent authority is satisfied may be adversely affected by the granting of the resource consent”.

In each part of the section, on my reading, the decision relies on the council being satisfied. It does not say to what extent the council should go to reach satisfaction.

Counsel for No 1 Queen St, Mark Cooper, went to some trouble to work his way round requirements in the back of this, through holistic approaches and the way, he said, councillors wrongly looked at individual components which required consent.

An affront to sense

The linguistic tango of the Resource Management Act is a complex dance, so understanding of it was not helped yesterday when Mr Cooper chose not to hand media a copy of his submissions. I had asked him on Friday for a copy of the statement of claim, so I could unearth the reasoning behind this judicial review, which if successful would halt AMP’s construction of its PricewaterhouseCoopers Tower. He declined.

I asked him then for a copy of his submissions to be available when the four-day case (now probably two and a bit) started, and he declined that, too. After three hours of the hearing, he elected to tell the judge, retired Justice David Tompkins, that AMP, the second defendant, was concerned about submissions being handed to the media because they might contain commercially sensitive information from affidavits. I told the judge this behaviour was an affront to the public interest.

When the court resumed in the afternoon AMP had no objection. The time to discuss this particular detail of a hearing was at 10am, when it started — in this case because the plaintiff, Mr Krukziener, made such a song and dance about the appearance of AMP’s building when he first raised the non-notification issue. He wanted it to be a public issue, yet his lawyer began the case by revealing no paperwork.

It can be a good thing to be forced to listen instead of reading, of course — you hunt for the substance. I can report that there was not much of that to be had, after you’ve put all the maybes and could’ves and should’ves in the pot.

Hidden substance

One aspect that might have substance, but remains hidden from public view, was the detail behind Mr Cooper’s claim that “the plaintiff says there were special circumstances relevant to the present case which should have led the council to publicly notify the application even if it was otherwise not necessary to notify it.”

That was on page 4. On page 27, Mr Cooper told the judge: “Against the background of the cases referred to, the plaintiff alleges in the present case that there would be adverse effects which are both more than minor and not de minimis.” The first reference was “as alleged in paragraph 32 of the amended statement of claim, and on the persons set out in paragraph 31 of the statement of claim.”

Then, on page 29, Mr Cooper returned to these special circumstances: “The plaintiff also alleges that there were special circumstances here as alleged in paragraph 44 of the amended statement of claim which would have required notification under section 94(5) of the act.”

Justice Tompkins, who confessed throughout the day to being unfamiliar with Resource Management Act terms and case law, told Mr Cooper: “If you don’t get home on the first leg, I’m not sure that you’ll get home on this one. And conversely, if you get home on section 94.2, you don’t need this one.”

The judge may learn what these special circumstances are, though it might have been helpful to tell him in submissions. For Mr Cooper, the judge’s view is paramount. “It’s won in here [the courtroom], not in your publications,” he told me.

So the Krukziener view that ugly buildings should be stopped, that a panel might look at proposals for the city centre before they go up, is really of no relevance. This is commercial. Mr Cooper reinforced that fact: “The plaintiff had however written a letter which made it plain that it was opposed to the proposed development.”

That letter was written before the writer, Mr Henderson, knew the resource consent had been granted. Mr Cooper gave no indication that Mr Henderson was aware of the appearance of the building, simply stating bald opposition.

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Mayor speaks against rail as he signs CPO contract

It’ll be a small part of the network, says Banks

Auckland mayor John Banks (left) signed a $22 million contract today for Downer Construction NZ Ltd to renovate Auckland’s former chief post office and turn it into the centrepiece of the Britomart transport interchange.

Downer has already started work on the outside contract, creating the underground Britomart railway station.

But Mr Banks made it plain on his way to signing the contract that he didn’t see rail playing a major long-term role in the region’s public transport network, and he didn’t see any proposal for new rail systems as an option, at least for the short-term.

“I believe that trains will be a part, a small part, of Auckland’s integrated transport scene” for the short-medium term, he said. He added it would be wrong for the Government to put a huge amount into a train system which at this stage was unproved. “In the medium term, if the trains go twice as well as we thought they would, we can have another look at this proposition.”

Downer switches focus to get back into major projects

Downer, headed by Clive Tilby as general manager capital works for New Zealand & the Pacific, has switched from having all its focus on civil engineering to a 3-way business — civil, construction and the Downer Connect business, formerly Telecom’s Connectel.

Mr Tilby left New Zealand at the end of the 80s as Fletcher Construction’s Wellington manager and a limited future in large projects, going to Germany and being posted to some big projects in Asia, particularly Indonesia.

He has the task of “building ourselves back into major projects” but “absolutely not” at a cut price — a question posed because of the fatally discounted construction deals which saw the demise of other aspirants for construction leadership in Auckland.

Mr Tilby is pleased by progress on the Britomart station (the beams in the photo above are at ground level): “It’s a long time since I’ve seen a project go so well. It’s really humming along and we’ll make the CPO go the same way.”

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Auckland gets Infrastructure Auckland $45 million for interchange

Stage 1 tender should go out Friday

Auckland City got its Britomart money from Infrastructure Auckland today — $45 million, with conditions which the mayor, Christine Fletcher (left), believes can be met.

That sum, combined with $133 million Auckland City Council will put into the Waitemata Waterfront Interchange project and $20 million from Transfund, just about meets the revised $199.8 million budget for the project.

Mrs Fletcher will recommend to a working party on Thursday afternoon that the project proceed, a recommendation which would then go to the council meeting on Thursday night. Labour and Citizens & Ratepayers councillors Richard Northey and Doug Astley said it should be carried with a near-unanimous vote.

That would enable the council to go to tender on the first stage of the downtown interchange project on Friday. The whole project should take 18 months from now.

Early IA modelling was rigorous

Infrastructure Auckland rigorously modelled the city council numbers, starting with modelling which resulted in a recommendation on 18 July that Infrastructure Auckland grant the council $29.8-35.2 million for the interchange project. The council wanted $91.5 million, plus $25 million from Transfund, towards a project costed at $249.3 million.

Faced with that recommendation, the council asked Infrastructure Auckland to defer its application.

The council came back today with a $199.8 million application, reduced mostly by lopping $21.8 million from the concourse for a new cost of $5 million, and striking another $21.5 million from the $33.4 million streetscaping bill. Transfund’s input was cut to $20 million, the Infrastructure Auckland figure was raised to just under $45 million and the council’s input remained at $133 million, with a slight adjustment to make up a difference of about $1 million.

Given the heavy modelling and caution at Infrastructure Auckland previously, the outcome amounts to acceptance of what Infrastructure Auckland had clearly found was a seriously flawed proposal.

The grant chairman John Robertson and four directors agreed on was at the top of a $7 million range.

Mayor: Region can make progress

Said Mrs Fletcher at an afternoon press conference on the decision: “I find a profound sense of relief that this region can make progress.”

She said the reduction of the concourse to a basic design would allow a more luxurious version to be built later. “I believe it [the project] is going to add so much value to the city, we’ll be able to do it sooner rather than later.”

John Duthie, now the council’s temporary assistant director planning services, said seven parties had been pre-selected for the tendering process, which would take about a month. Evaluation would take until early October, construction would start then on the Queen St station and continue until opening in April 2003.

First contract will be for Queen St station

The station, track and signal work would be in the first contract, followed by two separate tenders for the former central post office’s upgrade and the streetworks programme.

On the old bus terminal site behind the post office, there is provision for midrise development, “eight storeys — 12 at a maximum, a mix of apartments/offices, at ground level cafés and shops,” Mr Duthie said.

One concern of the Infrastructure Auckland directors was ownership of the rail corridors which are to form part of the wider regional public transport network. Mrs Fletcher said the council had had it confirmed by Finance Minister Michael Cullen that the deadline of 31 August for the Government to take control of the corridors from Tranz Rail would be met.

At Infrastructure Auckland, chairman John Robertson (right) was at pains to point out that the region’s politicians needed to start working out how they would pay for the rest of the new rapid transit scheme.

Infrastructure Auckland has put a $410 million tag on its contribution to an overall scheme which it has priced at $1.37 billion. Mr Robertson said Infrastructure Auckland believed private sector funding would be needed to plug the gap.

“If you’re going to get the private sector involved, you’ve got to develop the structure and returns to get results,” he said.

Recent Britomart stories:

Infrastructure Auckland’s $45 million “not much”

Britomart turns from property development to transport focus

Urban renewal an important fact of Britomart scheme

Britomart scheme gets unanimous green light

Auckland gets Infrastructure Auckland $45 million for interchange

New scheme for Britomart interchange voted through, but with $249 million cap

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PWC Tower occupancy hits 91%

Only small spaces left

New lease signings totalling 3589m² have taken occupancy in AMP NZ Office Trust’s waterfront PricewaterhouseCoopers Tower (as seen from the Hilton Hotel on Princes Wharf) to 91%.

Since completion in May, AMP has signed an unnamed major corporate to the top floor (level 29) & level 11, and other tenants to space on levels 16 & 10.

The trust’s executive manager, Rob Lang, said a small amount of space remained on levels 7, 10 & 26 (some now under contract), and part of the vacant space on level 9 is under contract.

That leaves 2700m² vacant out of 31,300m² of office & retail (1105m²) space.

Lease terms would stay confidential, but Mr Lang said they exceeded original tower feasibility estimates.

Valued at more than $170 million, the tower was officially opened in June. Accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (8295m²), law firm Buddle Findlay (4076m²) & WestpacTrust (5437m²) account for nearly 60% of the office space.

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