2011: The Year Auckland Shared
Looking back at the big Auckland stories of the year as covered by AKT:
2011 saw Auckland show a rare coming together for the RWC.
The CBD felt unusually safe and happy as people, led by Auckland’s wonderful Pacifika community, showed we could all be one in the same space having fun.
And for a few brief hours, we discovered how wonderful it would be to walk Queen St without traffic interruptions.
Finally Auckland authorities did take to the car-dominated city and thanks to the Shared Space project,we could in a few streets like Elliott fool ourselves we were in sophisticated pedestrian-friendly parts of Europe.
AT says pedestrian activity on such streets in the CBD has increased by between 50 and 140 per cent following their introduction.
The Shared Space even emerged in the ‘burbs, in New Lynn which (first home buyers alert) is developing into a great place to live with its public transport and rejuvenated town area.
A waterfront for people
The Waterfront at last got opened up to the public -for the Government’s bizarre notion of a booze barn Party Central concept for the RWC including the creation of the the Cloud which grew on us but still mystified us as what it could be used for long-term.
Queens Wharf’s 100-year-old Shed 10, which at one stage had been under threat, got a makeover and is on the Mayor’s list to be the venue for the new cruise terminal wharf
But the big waterfront success story was Wynyard Quarter; for once, a project wasn’t half-assed thrown together and the mix of industrial heritage and new gave it a San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf feel.
While Central government and other political parties can’t see beyond winning the next 3 year term, Auckland Council gave us an exciting vision for the next 10 to 40 years which included restricting urban sprawl and opening up the CBD to make it at least more pedestrian-friendly.
RWC brought improvements
Thanks to the RWC, the city got numerous improvements.
Eden Park got a multi-million dollar makeover but remains in a challenging spot, being in the middle of a quiet old neighbourhood some distance from the CBD.
In September, in the middle of sports madness, the Auckland Art Gallery opened its $114m extension and again we felt as if this could not be Auckland as it was like some of the international galleries some of us have set foot on overseas. I loved the way it met Albert Park in harmony.
In terms of street art: City officials “accidentally” painted over the art of Askew in K Road as the city went grey for the RWC but thankfully his Morningside work near the train station survived.
Improving the CBD
The inner city around the Auckland Town hall area at last got some attention, in part thanks to the smart Waitemata Local Board- including the much neglected Myers Park, a rare inner city park sanctum bequeathed to the city in 1915. It’s getting improvements at last.
Auckland has a disgraceful history of ripping down heritage buildings and it seemed we have learnt little as buildings in St Heliers fell despite public protests and some questionable brothel owners from Wellington arrived in town. Their purchase of a heritage hotel in Victoria St is now rubble and history gone. As is so often the case, they escaped prosecution.
NZTA soothed concerns about the Victoria Park Tunnel development by helping with heritage in the vicinity restoring the much neglected kindergarten in Victoria Park and, after moving and moving back the 125-year old Birdcage (Rob Roy) Tavern the tavern got restored -and NZTA is building a surrounding square. It will be named Wai-atarau Plaza.
Britomart gets it right
The Britomart rejuvenation continued to please with restaurants and bars that gave a visible nod to the area’s important heritage.
Even the Imperial Arcade between Queen St and Fort St got a new life just before Christmas with cafes that recognised the area’s former life as an early theatre and cinema.
The Britomart East complex, across the road from the station, housing the new Ernst & Young and Westpac HQ opened. The public thoroughfare provides new escalator and lift access to Britomart’s underground train platform.
But the stunning highlights are the Natural Habitats 60 custom made panel living walls sitting between two to five stories above ground level in the atrium of that thoroughfare.
SKYCity did a deal with the Council & Government and in exchange for some casino privleges, got permission to build a much needed convention centre for Auckland in Hobson St.
We need the centre. Not sure about the proposed Federal St air bridge as part of the casino’s expansion. And not impressed with the need for funding overriding any moral issues.
Mind the gap
Progressive Enterprises finally bought the dreadful hole in the ground – the massive Ponsonby hole left by the failed misguided SOHO project but refuse to say what’s planned now apart from supposedly a giant supermarket to replace the inadequate Grey Lynn Countdown up the road.
Not so successful was the attempt to build a “Rhubarb Lane’ inner city New York style village in the big space available in Cook Street – it was abandoned late in the year and the space back again for lease.
We’re still awaiting work what exactly will happen to another big space- that occupied for years by the Lion Brewery in Khyber Pass Rd.
Mayor Len Brown’s PR mantra was that Auckland will be the world’s most livable city.
A big call but at least he has a plan and there are healthy signs of much-welcomed improvement.
The city feels a better place already.