Regeneration of Midtown – Greater Auckland

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Earlier this year, work on the downtown core was finally completed after three years of work. The works included the reinforcement of the sea wall, the reconstruction of Quay St into a more user-friendly space, the new public space of Te Wananga, the new docks of the ferry terminal, Te Komititanga and the renovated building of the main post office, the city ​​center bus interchange. There has also been a private development with Commercial Bay. Additionally, recently we saw the completion of the Karangahape Rd upgrade to improve the south end of downtown.

Now the council’s attention in the city is shifting to the city center which will integrate and complement the new Aotea station delivered as part of the city rail link.

When it opens, Aotea station will be New Zealand’s busiest with more people entering or exiting than any other.

It is a key element of the transit-oriented development described as Transformational Move 5 in the City Center Masterplan, which was widely consulted and unanimously approved by the Auckland Council in 2020. It is an element key to the rebirth of the city center.

Today Auckland Council and Auckland Transport unveil their Midtown program, describing the area as: “a part of Auckland where our history, art and culture can be seen and heard and will spread into public life; where people choose to hang out and socialize; a place that is attractive and feels inclusive and safe. ‘

Midtown is the district that radiates from Aotea Square, comprising landmarks such as Auckland’s historic Town Hall, Civic Theater, Auckland Toi o Tāmaki Art Gallery and SkyTower, two universities, the intimate lanes comprising Federal, Elliott, High and Lorne streets, and treasured city parks – Myers Park and Rangipuke Albert Park.

It is at the heart of a significant change in the way people move in, out and through the city and its regeneration is expected to be a catalyst for growth, productivity, a healthier and more sustainable downtown and a dynamic artistic and cultural center. heart of Auckland.

These are the projects listed today by Auckland Council and Auckland Transport to help regenerate downtown Auckland for the thousands of people who will get there by train and bus every day.

The projects include:

  • CRL Aotea Station – The station sill designs, woven with mana whenua narratives, won a WAFX Cultural Identity Award from the World Architecture Festival in 2019.
  • Stage 1 of the Wellesley Street Bus Improvement Project (Albert Street to Queen Street) – an improved environment for bus users and pedestrians
  • Te Hā Noa Stage 1 – Victoria Street Linear Park (Albert Street to Kitchener Street)
  • Modernization of Federal Street, extension of the shared road lane circuit
  • Wai Horotiu Queen Street Project
  • Improved Myers Park Underpass
  • Aotea on the development of the station by MRCB, enabled by Eke Panuku
  • High Street upgrade
  • Hobson Street Improvement (Victoria Street to Wellesley Street)
  • Renovation of the Aotea Center
  • Completion of the Albert Street upgrade between Wyndham Street and Wellesley Street

Excluding the Aotea station itself, the upper station development and the Watercare sewage upgrade, the Auckland council will invest more than $ 133 million in the city center over the years. next five years.

Many of these projects have been discussed in one way or another over the past decade, so it’s great to finally see funding and commitment put in place to make them happen. I guess a lot of that cost also comes from the downtown target rate paid by businesses and residents.

It appears that the council has focused on bringing all of these projects together into one comprehensive delivery program and this appears to be a positive step instead of the more piecemeal street-by-street approach. I understand that as part of that, they just brought back most of the teams that were behind the downtown program to the downtown one.

As for the above projects, the one that perhaps interests me the most is the Victoria St Linear Park. We are only getting the part of Albert Street to Kitchener Street to begin with, but this will be important to help manage the pedestrian volumes of the City Rail Link, but also to set the tone for the eventual extension to the park. Victoria. It is also a project that we have fought hard to keep in the plans.

The project we are probably least familiar with is the modernization of Hobson St from Victoria St to Wellesley. The CCMP is claiming it as part of the transformation of Hobson St and Nelson St into “green and more livable twin avenues adapted to their urban context in what constitutes the densest residential area of ​​New Zealand“.

He also suggests that this would be achieved by:

  • reduce the number of traffic lanes and turns at intersections
  • possibly change them to two-way streets
  • wider paths and priority for pedestrians at intersections as well as at mid-way crossings
  • more bike trails, including on Hobson St
  • more street trees

It would also be helpful if this section closed the access ramps to the Skycity parking lot.

Perhaps the key pieces missing from this announcement, along with the Queen Street details released last week, are the commitment to deliver other parts of the downtown master plan at the same time. In particular the zero emission zone for the Queen Street valley and access for all. These are essential elements of the plan to improve air quality, reduce private vehicle trips and make the city center more user-friendly. These things need to be discussed at every step to make the public aware of their need, to come and to help ensure that they are not ruled out by project teams as “someone else’s job to do”.

As designs for these projects form, it would also be great to focus a lot more on delivering more street trees to the city.

When completed the main parts of the city center will look pretty good and a huge improvement over what they used to be / are now. I wonder where else in the downtown and region the council could take this broader program approach to improvements.

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