Akld rail link disruption predicted
Construction of the city rail link would see downtown Auckland grind to a halt for two years, but offers opportunities to rebuild the city’s waterfront, the council says.
In a briefing on development plans, the Auckland Council outlined its hopes for the block, bordered by Quay, Customs, Albert and Queen streets, which would need to be demolished to build tunnels connecting to Britomart - if and when the rail link is built.
The city rail link (CRL) has been contentious politically, with the council seeking to start work next year but central government - who are part-funding the $2.9 billion project - preferring to wait until 2020 to begin.
Auckland Council ‘‘design champion’’ Ludo Campbell-Reid said the Quay Street waterfront was designed for mass vehicular transport and Queen Elizabeth Square was presently mostly dark and uninviting.
‘‘It is quite frankly a disaster for international visitors, but also Aucklanders,’’ he said.
The council has been in negotiations with Precinct Properties New Zealand over the plans as the property investors owns the majority of buildings on the block, including the Zurich and HSCB buildings, and the Downtown Shopping Centre
Campbell-Reid was unwilling to disclose Precinct’s provisional plans, which were shown on a confidential basis to council, but said they included a 36-storey tower on the site.
It was disclosed the council had provided Precinct with a ‘‘confidential design brief’’ outlining their hopes for the site, including more pedestrian access and a new public square.
Campbell-Reid said Precinct was anticipating presenting its plans to the public and applying for resource consents in early September.
Auckland Transport major projects manager Rick Walden said redeveloping the block was contingent on work on the CRL having begun.
‘‘Clearly there’s logic in doing that together. If one is delayed, so is the other,’’ he said.
Last month the council voted in principle to sell Queen Elizabeth Square to Precinct, providing a new public space of the same size but better aesthetics was incorporated into the new designs.
Deputy mayor Penny Hulse stressed the sale was still subject to final council approval for the plan.
Hulse said, if the plans went ahead, the scale of construction would make the area - a hub for the city - unusable for two years.