Madayag/Jasmax team wins, work could start soon
Auckland mayor Christine Fletcher was bubbling: one year after the city council canned the grand property redevelopment on the Britomart bus terminal site, she announced the winning design for what is now the Waitemata Waterfront development.
Work on continuing the development (the rail tunnel is already dug) could start soon â€” though Mrs Fletcher emphasised the outstanding deficiencies: a commitment by the region’s local bodies to buy the rail corridors, a Government financial commitment of $40 million to this project, and a decision on the transport mode to be used in the rail corridors.
The Savoy group is still working on a legal case against the council for terminating the previous Britomart project, which the previous mayor (Les Mills) and council majority had supported.
But that bitterness was left outside the door for the announcement of the winner of the council’s public design competition, which began with 153 submissions in round one, whittled down to seven finalists who went through round two.
For the second round, these finalists were invited to form multi-disciplinary teams to produce detailed plans.
The winning combination, announced by the mayor in the main chamber of the old Chief Post Office on Queen Elizabeth II Square, is headed by US architect Mario Madayag, who teamed up with local firm Jasmax, OMA/AMO Rem Koolhas, Peter Walker & Partners.
3 Key differences
There are three key differences between the previous scheme and this one â€” the process, the emphasis on transport instead of downtown development, and the extreme likelihood that this one will proceed quickly.
The previous process was run by a property manager. Peter Cross came in from the private sector to become the council’s property development manager, with some specific targets to aim at. Downtown, he was to tidy up the council’s leaseholdings, and to turn the ugly Britomart into a sparkling new transport centre.
As a property man, his natural course was to seek a property solution with a positive financial outcome, and that meant serious commercial development on the Britomart site.
Mr Cross knew about digging holes â€” as the man in charge of the MacDow tower (Pacific/Robt Jones/Coopers & Lybrand/PricewaterhouseCoopers/now the ANZ Centre), he agreed to a five-storey parking garage under that building between Albert and Federal Sts.
For Britomart, a 2900-space parking garage would replace the existing bus terminal parking edifice, provide parking for the towers that would be built above, and allow for some public short-term parking. Again, underground.
Also underground would be the train station, two floors down with potential for the line to be continued toward the North Shore, and the bus station. The train tunnel has been built, but the bus companies fought undergrounding.
The 1990s scheme was vigorously opposed by the city’s property industry, several of whose participants were closely involved in owning/developing/seeking tenants so they could develop competing sites.
Mr Cross called in designers, engineers, people from outside the close Auckland property community, to produce a Britomart project which would have about 83,000mÂ² of premium grade office space, plus space in refurbished heritage buildings around the site perimeter. It would also have two hotels and an apartment precinct on the eastern end.
We all know design competitions don’t work, but that’s what the city council embarked on. It lost the opportunity to reach a positive commercial solution to its downtown blight, with a guarantee which meant that if everything wasn’t right after 10 years it could come out holding remaining developments sites and with a return from developed sites.
Plenty of people questioned the soundness of the council’s financial arrangements, particularly that guarantee.
The new process, Mayor Fletcher vowed, would be open. The first stage of the design competition ended in June and the second stage ended last night. The designs, slapped up around the walls of the former Chief Post Office, have been viewed by thousands.
Local architects, obviously not enthused by the previous project’s calling up of overseas expertise to head design, have entered the spirit of the new council’s approach. They have worked vigorously on replacement designs, but have also been prepared in some cases to call on foreign support as well.
Transport the emphasis
The emphasis, this time, has been on the transport aspects. The CPO (new name: Auckland Central) is to be a hub, with underground pedestrian links to the ferry terminal and the Downtown Centre. Escalators will take rail and light rail passengers from the CPO foyer two floors underground to the station. There will not be a single bus station, but bus stops dotted all round the CPO block.
For that to happen, and for light rail to head up Queen St, QEII Square will need to be reopened, though it’s not likely to be fully open to private vehicles.
A pedestrian street will take a line east from a square at the rear of the CPO, through the middle of the existing bus terminal. Development sites on each side of it remain boxes in the design drawings, as do three sites around the perimeter.
Developments are envisaged as lowrise, compared to buildings of up to 34 storeys in the previous scheme.
“We could start work on this very shortly,” Mrs Fletcher said â€” if the transport modes and rail corridor issues are disposed of. She said there could be no postponement of the 8 December date when agreement is to be reached on purchasing the rail corridors from Trans Rail.
The city council has $130 million in place, through the 1996 Britomart project, to enable it to start work immediately. The city council will seek another $40 million from Infrastructure Auckland to complete its financial requirements.
A resource consent was sought two months ago for the underground station and it could be through the consent process in a fortnight.
For the rail corridors purchase, the Auckland council wants the region’s other councils to agree to the deal and for the Government to come up with $35 million.