Wellington's new-look laneways are making Melbourne sit up and take notice
Move over Melbourne – Wellington's new-look laneways are about to give you a run for your money.
People walking through the city will soon enjoy a new sensory experience as flickering lights, living walls, brightly painted roads and even bubble machines bring some of the capital's darker spaces to life in a big way.
The quirkiest of the Wellington City Council laneway makeovers is quite possibly in Eva and Leeds streets, which connect to each other via the Hannah Courtyard.
About $500,000 will be spent on making the area a living artwork, with an overhead light show, a massive chandelier, giant novelty lightbulbs, themed car parks and a machine shooting bubbles from the Six Barrel Soda Company.
The makeover of Eva and Leeds streets began in October and is on track to be completed before Christmas.
Masons Lane, which links Lambton Quay and The Terrace, is also in the process of being spruced up with new lights, wood panelling and walls covered in plants – to the tune of $220,000.
A $1.5 million revamp of Lombard St, which links Manners and Bond streets, is expected to get under way in February, and will bring new life and new businesses to what is currently little more than a dim alleyway.
Trudy Whitlow, the council's manager of urban design and heritage, said there were 72 lanes and arcades in central Wellington and the idea was to liven up as many as possible and connect them up into a funky pedestrian network.
Egmont St, Garrett St, Swan Lane, and Cable Car Lane are already in the queue for a makeover, she said.
"It's all about the experience. Instead of moving down a noisy, busy road, you've got these quirky little spaces."
For each laneway, the idea was to do a modern interpretation of the area's heritage, Whitlow said.
The car parks on Leeds St will be painted to look like shoeboxes as a nod to the old Hannah shoe factory, while a chandelier planned for the Hannah Courtyard had been designed to look like shoelaces.
City council urban designer Anna Harley said the laneways had also been designed as ideal spaces for small businesses to set up shop selling artisan products.
"There's a bit of a renaissance at the moment with people living in the central city, and they want these kinds of smaller spaces that are on a more human scale."
Joseph Slater, co-owner of Six Barrel Soda, said he was looking forward to Eva St being tidied up so it was more obvious that things happening there.
"If you're just looking down here, there's a strip club on the corner ... and it looks like a car park with lots of rubbish around. So hopefully some stripes and some lights will make it more inviting."
Councillor Nicola Young, who holds the Central City Projects portfolio, said the capital's proposed laneways were so eye-catching that Melbourne, a city famous for its lanes and arcades, was inquiring about Wellington's ideas.
Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said the council was looking to brighten up the areas where there has been, or will be, business investment.
"[Wellington] is such a compact and walkable city, but there are some areas that are unnecessarily grotty. This will let people know about these areas and what's there."