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.